Fraser Forster Beginning To Make His Mark Between The Sticks With Southampton

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Ever since their promotion back to the English Premier League in 2012, the one area where Southampton have been lacking is their goalkeeping department.

In attack they produced some moments of true magic over the past couple of seasons, whilst the likes of Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren, Jose Fonte, Nathaniel Clyne and Calum Chambers gave a solid look to their backline. In midfield, Morgan Schneiderlin and Adam Lallana developed into full internationals alongside Jack Cork, James Ward-Prowse and Steven Davis who also contributed significantly to the Saints’ progress.

However, things haven’t gone as well between the goal posts. Kelvin Davis and Paolo Gazzaniga made a mess of their top-flight opportunity with Artur Boruc joining on a free transfer just two months into their season back in the division.

The Polish-born keeper is undoubtedly an excellent shot-stopper, but his inconsistency and, at times, erratic performances meant that his stay in the Saints’ goal always looked to be temporary. Last season, he managed to keep his place but this summer things had to change with Southampton looking north of the border.

The £10 million arrival of Celtic hero Fraser Forster largely went unnoticed as all the English papers focused on Southampton’s wholesale changes this summer. As people started to appreciate the slick and effective transfer strategy panned out by the club – owned by the much-criticized Katharina Liebherr – the limelight was firmly placed on the new attacking recruits Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic.

With Southampton having conceded just five goals (the best record in the league) and kept five clean sheets in their first nine Premier League games, it’s clear that Ronald Koeman’s side is equally strong at the back, if not more so.

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Forster’s calmness has been infectious to the Saints’ backline, and his gigantic frame – he’s over two meters tall – makes the goal look tiny. Having saved 76% of the shots he’s faced, the England international has one of the best saves-to-shots ratio in Europe.

Nevertheless, the 26-year-old’s career in England has been far from smooth sailing. Having joined Newcastle United as a 17-year-old, Forster never made a first team appearance for the Magpies with Tim Krul, Steve Harper and Shay Given all firmly ahead of him in the pecking order.

After short spells at Stockport County and Bristol Rovers, Forster joined Norwich in 2009, helping the Canaries win the League One title and kept a clean sheet in almost 50% of his appearances.

A loan spell with Glasgow giants Celtic soon followed with the move becoming permanent in 2012. His stay in Scotland is most notable for his performances against Barcelona in the Champions League, but one must not easily dismiss the staggering 79 league clean sheets he kept over four seasons in the Scottish Premier League.

Transferring such good levels of performances from Scotland’s top tier to South of the border has proved to be difficult for most footballers in recent years. Craig Gordon’s £9 million move to Sunderland from Hearts in 2007 was a British record for a transfer fee paid for a goalkeeper (it was later overtaken by David de Gea’s move to Manchester United).

Unfortunately, his stay in Tyneside failed to live up to expectations, having made just 54 league appearances after his first season the the Black Cats.

Gordon’s stay in England started out well and will thus serve as a warning sign for the Southampton giant. Having said that, the mood at the St. Mary’s Stadium is one of optimism, and it’s not just because of the fluid attacking play being enjoyed week in week out.

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