NEWS that Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster is a target for Sunderland presents the giant Englishman with all sorts of dilemmas, according to Pat Bonner, the man who was a legend between the Parkhead sticks.
Not the least of Forster’s worries about moving to Wearside would be the fact that he is a product of the academy of the Black Cats’ greatest rivals, Newcastle United.
“Having been at Newcastle, it would be an interesting one for him and he might have a decision to make this summer,” said Bonner of Forster, who has already hinted he may have to move to England to achieve his ambition of playing for his country in the World Cup.
Bonner said: “I’m not surprised people are looking at him, to be honest. He has been in the England squad this season and he has had a good season, to a degree.
“Earlier in the year he was fantastic, but he had a wee injury and then as the season closed he was slowly coming back to top form.
“He made a great save at a vital stage of the Scottish Cup final, which helped Celtic go on to beat Hibs, so it’s no surprise that he is being considered by clubs in England.”
Bonner feels the 25-year-old from Hexham might still make the England team due to the exposure he gets at Celtic. “It’s up to him at the end of the day,” said Bonner, “But he has got a lot going for him up here in Scotland. He has the chance to play Champions League football every season, he’s with a massive club and he is in the public eye, so has a high profile. It all depends on how he sees it, but it might be a difficult decision for him.”
Even the lure of a World Cup place in Brazil next year should not tempt Forster down south, according to Bonner, whose 80 caps for the Republic of Ireland allow him to make a valid compairson between playing for club and country.
Bonner said: “I don’t think when you are playing Champions League football, as he has done with Celtic and will do hopefully next season, that it takes anything away from your game in any way.
“Playing for Celtic actually suits a goalkeeper who plays international football because for long spells you don’t have a lot to do and you have to maintain your concentration levels. It’s a completely different way of playing but that’s what Fraser has to do in almost every match he plays for Celtic.
“He won’t have to deal with 100 shots or take 20 crosses in a match, as he’d maybe have to do with another club, so from that perspective Celtic suits a goalkeeper who hopes to play international football. But it depends on whether Celtic are going to be in the Champions League or not. I would say that’s vital. That’s going to be the competition he needs.”
Bonner made it clear that he is a fan of the 6ft 7in goalkeeper: “I hope he stays. He’s done well and Neil Lennon and the club have gone out of their way to get him here. He’s developed, he’s improved and helped the team achieve things. I hope he stays and sees Celtic as an important club for him to remain at the top.
“Like any goalkeeper, it takes time to settle in at a club and he had to work on certain aspects of his game. But he has done that and he knows now what it takes to play for Celtic.
“I don’t know what the next step is for him, but what he did very well was pick up on the things his coaches wanted him to do better. He’s a bright lad.
“I’ve spoken to him a few times and I think he realised he had to pick up on a few issues.
“He also knows that he can play at the very highest level and when he does have a dip in form, he can use that knowledge as a pathway to get back into the groove again. That’s important – once you know what you’ve done well and you CAN perform at that level and make the saves at that level, I think it is easier thereafter.”
Bonner also sounded a well-intentioned warning about the possible reality of signing for Paolo di Canio’s team.
“He could go down to England, sign for Sunderland and be fighting relegation,” said Bonner. “That’s another issue for him to be thinking about. The grass is not always greener on the other side.”
Should Forster stay, he would grow in confidence and become a “leader”, said Bonner.
“He has to become the leader now at the back. People now expect him to take on that role.”