HAVING worked his way through the professional ranks in England, Fraser Forster isn’t sure what to make of the impending winter shut-down.
The Celtic keeper has never experienced a two-week hiatus mid-season, which will arrive for the Scottish champions once they have been first-footed by Motherwell on Wednesday. The 24-year-old had better just appreciate the short rest. For the break could give way to Forster’s career moving forward at breakneck pace once more.
In the four weeks from the end of January, the keeper won’t have a moment’s relaxation. On 6 February, he is hoping to earn his first full cap… against Brazil at Wembley. A week later he will line up against one of his boyhood inspirations Gianluigi Buffon as Juventus come to Celtic Park. They will do so for the first of two Champions League ties the club dare to believe could be their route to the last eight of the competition. Oh, and there is also the matter of a League Cup semi-final and a Scottish Cup quarter-final, and league games that could move Celtic much closer to retaining their championship in the same period.
“It will be a big month for me and a big month for Celtic,” he says. “The game against Brazil would obviously be a nice one to get some time in but we will wait and see. I am an ambitious guy and an England cap is obviously one of my ambitions, something I have dreamed of since I was a young kid. Whether that happens next year or in ten years’ time, it is just about getting to that point and trying to improve every day.
“It is just important to be doing well for your club. We have got some huge games coming up against Juventus so it might be a case of playing well in them before taking the next step.”
In 2012, the 6ft 7in Forster seemed to take steps in keeping with his loping gait. A “decent year”, he calls the one set to pass into history in a matter of days.
You could call that monumental understatement from a massive presence. So massive indeed, that his capacity for producing massive saves in the year he became a league title winner has resulted in his regular elevation to the England squad. Such recognition down south, ultra-rare for a Scottish-based player these days, has been demanded by his efforts in the club’s Champions League campaign. Stand-out displays against Barcelona and in Moscow and Helsingborg now make the £2 million Celtic paid Newcastle during the summer to make the keeper’s stay in Scotland permanent appear about four-fifths shy of his present valuation.
Forster talks of having to close his mind to the perception of Scottish football across the Border when agreeing to commit to Celtic for the next four years. The progress of Neil Lennon’s side in the Champions League has allowed him to feel vindicated in doing so.
“There has been more interest from England in what we’re doing. Generally it’s benefited everyone to have more coverage as individuals and as a team. People have really taken notice of what we’ve achieved as a team,” he says. “We’ve picked up some great results. Those games have been watched and people are fully aware of what Celtic is all about.
“There has always been a lot of negativity there about what is achieved up here. But you’ve got to blank out a lot of people because up here we as players know what it’s all about. Celtic is a fantastic club and it’s about surrounding yourself with positive people. You can sit and pick negatives out of everything and everybody’s life, in different situations. I’ve got to take positives. It’s been a fantastic experience for me. It’s made signing on here in the summer so worthwhile.
“On paper, you’d say that this season couldn’t have gone much better so far. We’re at the halfway mark now and we just want to kick on. It’s been a fantastic season so far and we just want to keep that going into 2013. It’s been a big decision to sign on here. It’s a fantastic club and it’s obviously been the right decision. It couldn’t have gone better and I’m delighted I made that decision. I think all the lads are, we’re delighted to be a part of what we are doing.
“I didn’t really have to blank that many people out because a lot don’t know too much about it. Once you come up and see Celtic, the stadium and the fans, that sells it to anyone. I spoke to a few people whose opinions I take seriously and they all said to come back. I knew I wanted to come back anyway and it was just a case of sorting the right deal out and we did that. So I’m delighted with the way it’s turned out.”
The way it has turned out, Forster is the only English keeper left in the Champions League. Yet the amiable goalie cautions that this isn’t such an outrageous achievement as might first appear. He laughs: “I was only one of two in the first place.”