TERRY Butcher is convinced Fraser Forster is ripe for international recognition – whether or not he bases himself in Scotland.
The Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager earned a good portion of his 77 England caps while playing for Rangers and insists the Celtic No 1 can do the same.
Butcher read with interest the comments of England goalkeeping legend Peter Shilton last week when he spoke of knocking back a move to Ibrox in the mid-1980s through fears for his international future. Rangers instead signed Chris Woods who, like Butcher, continued to advance his England career.
Scottish football has dived in prestige and finances since those cash-rich Ibrox days, but Shilton backs Forster’s inclusion in the England squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland – and Butcher agrees. The 54-year-old never felt any discrimination under Sir Bobby Robson after joining the Graeme Souness revolution in 1986 and is convinced England manager Roy Hodgson will make his judgment on Forster based on ability and reliability.
The former Rangers and England captain said: “There are obviously still question marks in Roy’s mind about Fraser Forster, but that probably owes more to his relative youth and inexperience internationally. At 25, he is still very young for an international goalkeeper. He’s in the squad and they will assess him there. To be in the squad in itself is a good achievement. If called upon, you have to take your chance. Certainly against Barcelona, Fraser was excellent. He couldn’t keep Caley Thistle’s two goals out, mind you.
“But I think he is a very good goalkeeper. Joe Hart’s the man in possession although he’s not having the best spell at the moment. But he still has a good history with England and has done well for his country. I wouldn’t harbour doubts about Fraser Forster, I’d look at some of the saves he makes and what he brings to the side. He has youth on his side and he’s growing all the time in the role. There are English and European clubs who would love to take him off Celtic’s hands. He has got something, without a doubt. He’s a talent and a big boy. He is still very young for a goalkeeper. ’Keepers don’t really start hitting their peak until their late 20s or 30. He has all the attributes to be a top-class international ’keeper.”
Former Celtic goalkeeper Pat Bonner claimed last week that international football was a step up from club football in the Champions League, given the scrutiny and demands. Butcher agreed: “At international level, the demands are higher. You have to work very hard to get a decent understanding and gain confidence and sharpness with players alongside you.
“That only comes when you play half a dozen games at least. If you come in for the odd friendly, that’s fine, as long as you are doing well and learning.
“But international football is much more demanding than club football. When I was involved in international football, I always came back mentally drained. You are working with different people and have got to get to know them quickly, see their strengths and weaknesses and assess. Most of the English squad are England-based, so for Fraser that’s even harder.”
Butcher believes it would be a real shot in the arm for the Scottish domestic scene if Forster did earn caps and establish himself while at Celtic. He said: “I think it would be a great feather in the cap for the Scottish game to see Fraser capped while playing in our league.
“I saw Peter Shilton in the newspapers saying he had turned down a move to Scotland because he feared for his England career. I never did. I spoke to Bobby Robson about it when he was England manager. Chris Woods had already moved up. I came up followed by Wilkins, Roberts, Stevens and Steven. A lot of the guys came up and it didn’t affect us. I don’t think it does any harm. I think Roy Hodgson is the same. I think Roy would say, well, they are playing at a high level.
“Particularly with Forster at Celtic, he is playing in the Champions League. That’s good enough. There will be some players in the England squad who don’t play Champions League.”