Peter Shilton has urged Fabio Capello to hand Ben Foster the chance to prove he can be England's first-choice goalkeeper at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. The 25-year-old's status was bolstered by his match-winning performance for Manchester United in the League Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur earlier this month, with his heroics earning him a call-up to the Italian's squad for Saturday's friendly against Slovakia and Wednesday's qualifier against Ukraine.
Shilton, who has a record 125 England caps to his name, would welcome a challenge to 38-year-old David James, although he stressed that Robert Green of West Ham United was also in contention. "I would like to see a young goalkeeper now in the next few games and for next season really start to put some pressure on the England goalkeeping spot," said Shilton.
"David James has always been a terrifically gifted goalkeeper, but he lost his place because of making errors on a regular basis for England. So although he is our most experienced goalkeeper, you can't really put your cards totally on David.
"It is very interesting to see Ben Foster getting over his injury. He had a big chance in a big game and performed exceptionally well for Manchester United in the League Cup final. He is somebody who has always looked the part, but still has a lot to prove. Green has also been very consistent this year, and the position is still very much in the balance."
Foster has been almost permanently injured since Capello replaced Steve McClaren 15 months ago, and has only one England cap to date, earned while he was on loan at Watford in 2007. Despite his recent call-up, he acknowledges that he will have to be playing more regularly if he is to seriously challenge James for the national team's No1 jersey.
At United, that involves displacing Edwin van der Sar, who is likely to play on for at least another season. It will not be an easy task but Foster has ruled out moving elsewhere in search of first-team exposure. "The biggest club in the world against the biggest competition in the world, that is the dilemma," he said.
"Playing for England is a hugely important thing but I am also at the biggest club in the world. I will only get one chance at that and I don't want to give it up. I have to come back next season and get into the manager's face as much as I can. I want to be playing and I want to get into the World Cup squad next season."
Whatever happens, Foster's history of injuries - he has suffered ruptured cruciate ligaments, a broken thumb and a twisted ankle in the last two years - have made him philosophical about the up-and-down nature of his chosen profession. "When you have so many injuries in such a short space of time, it teaches you to sit back and realise how fortunate you are when you can play regularly," he said. "I have had bad times. Hopefully I am back on the up again now."
Maintaining that positive approach is one of the reasons why Foster was so happy to get the England call, a reward, as he sees it, for the more professional focus he has adopted. "I have changed my whole life, with the things that I eat and things that I do," he revealed.
"I do a lot more work in the gym and I just try to calm it down and focus on going out onto the training pitch, doing my best and then take the same approach into matches as and when I get the chance. It certainly feels good to get that little bit of recognition."