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Ambitious Foster faces World Cup dilemma

sports Updated: Mar 26, 2009 10:20 IST

AFP
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Ben Foster admits he might have to sacrifice his dream of becoming Manchester United's first choice goalkeeper if he wants to play for England at the World Cup.

Foster is widely regarded as the best of England's young keepers and won the man of the match award for a fine display in United's League Cup final victory over Tottenham earlier this season.

But injuries and the superb form of Edwin van der Sar have restricted the 25-year-old to just one league appearance and a handful of cup starts for United since signing from Stoke in 2005.

Foster's only regular first-team action has come during two loan spells at Watford, where his talent shone through enough to earn an England cap against Spain two years ago.

He hopes to make a second international appearance in Saturday's friendly against Slovakia at Wembley but knows it will be back to the substitutes bench for the rest of the season when he returns to Old Trafford.

And with the World Cup just over a year away, Foster is well aware he needs to find regular football quickly if he is to play any part in Fabio Capello's plans for South Africa.

"It's a bit of a fine line for me. I want to be at Manchester United for as long as I can but then I do want to be playing as well," Foster said.

"You can't expect to go to the biggest competition in the world not playing regular football.

"It's a balancing act. I've got no desire to move away from United. I love the team and all the lads.

"But I've got ambitions with my career. I want to do stuff. I'm not happy just to sit around being a number two keeper.

"There's the World Cup coming up next year. There's a lot of English players who want to be picked and involved in that."

After a record-breaking run with United that saw him set a British record for minutes without conceding a goal, van der Sar is clearly keen to carry on playing for at least another season.

As a result, Foster is likely to be given only occasional moments in the spotlight. For such an ambitious young player that is an unacceptable state of affairs.

"I'd like to think I am good enough to be England and United's number one. Whenever I go out and play for United I'm as confident as I can be," Foster said.

"It is frustrating not playing, but at United there are always going to be people fighting for the same position.

"It's a difficult one when you've got Edwin in front of you doing so well. He is 38 or 39 but still in fantastic shape.

"He kept 14 or 15 cleansheets so you can't really go knocking on the manager's door when he's done that."

Foster admits he was surprised to be called up by Capello after so little action this season.

But Foster - who worked as a chef during his days as a non-league player prior to joining Stoke - is supremely confident in his own ability and expects to put pressure on first choice keeper David James with a good performance this weekend.

"I was never even thinking about anything to do with England previously to this call-up." Foster said. "To get this call-up off the back of the League Cup final is a massive boost.

"I enjoy playing the big games. I played in the play-off final with Watford and then the League Cup final. I don't feel the pressure or get nervous.

"The two seasons I played with Watford it was backs to the wall and you knew at any given second you would have something to do.

"At United you can be watching the game for 30 minutes and not touching the ball.

"When you are out there in front of 70,000 people you really get to know yourself. There is a lot more pressure.

"Some people fail miserably under that pressure and others thrive on it. I like to think I'm one of those who thrive on it."