More peaks than would be found in the craggiest Alpine range have been scaled by man mountain Fraser Forster.
The 31-year-old can point to a first England cap in 2013 earned on the back of him proving to be a rock of remarkable proportions against Barcelona in the Champions League.
A new Scottish league record of 1,256 minutes without conceding a goal followed in 2014, by which time he was on his way to a third Scottish title. A £10m move to Southampton then ensured he made the cut for the England’s 2016 World Cup squad, which followed his inclusion for Euro 2014. All of these elements of Hexam-born keeper’s irresistible rise, though, have now been supplanted by an act that confirmed his resurrection.
Forster returned to Celtic on loan in August a man laid low by a year-and-a-half wherein he didn’t just lose his place with Southampton, but was reduced to third choice. When he threw himself across goal in the 95th minute to produce a seemingly sixth sense and six-limbed reflex save that secured a 2-1 victory over Lazio at Celtic Park last month, the high produced put everything else he had known in his 14 years as professional into the shade.
“Off the back of the previous 18 months, it was an actual moment where you are like ‘that’s why you play football’.
“That moment for me was that,” Forster said. “Given the 18 months before, stuff I’d had to deal with, stuff I’d been through, that was probably the first moment when I was like ‘that’s why I’m here, that’s what I’ve missed’.
“It’s impossible to say how good that feeling is. Just adrenalin, relief, a feeling you are back. It’s hard to describe how it is. It’s like when a striker is asked how it feels to score. You don’t get that feeling in any other aspect of life. Just given the previous 18 months, to have that feeling back was something very special.
“Probably, if I could pick one feeling out of my whole career, that would be the moment I appreciate the most. I always knew I could play at this level [again]. But just as a one-off feeling, having to come back and be playing, you know 100 per cent you’ve done the right thing. Those European nights are special.
“The atmosphere and everything to do with it – scoring so late in the game to go 2-1 up, then to make the save, it was just something very special. Hard to put into words, really.”
Forster claims not to have watched back his validation-earning stop “that many times, to be honest”. So many others have felt he should, though. The save went viral, and was pinged his way with the force of the vicious Danilo Cataldi drive he thwarted. “Obviously people sent me it on Instagram. But since then I’ve just moved onto the next thing,” he said. “I wasn’t aware of all the fuss. I don’t read a lot...no offence. I just try and stay in my bubble and do my own thing.”
That bubble will be Celtic-stamped for the season with the keeper maintaing Southampton, who haven’t been in contact since he embarked on a second spell at the nine-in-a-row chasing Scottish champions, have no reason to recall him early.
Forster wants to go large in what this loan spell can serve up. A double over Lazio delivered with the 2-1 win in Rome has guaranteed Europa League knock-out football after Christmas – even before Rennes’ visit next week .
With the club top of the table, on an eight-game winning streak, and with a League Cup final against Rangers next month, Forster has his sights set on helping Celtic to a fourth straight treble. “It would be a great thing to be involved in. You look at what the lads have achieved in the last few years and it has been fantastic.
“Very few players actually get to compete and go out to win stuff so to come up here and do that it would be something special. That is the dream.”