In 2013 goalkeeper Fraser Forster became only the second Celtic player to be capped by England, following in the footsteps of fellow Geordie Alan Thompson nine years earlier.
Forster credits his displays during the club’s run to the last 16 of the Champions League (particularly their two group stage meetings with Barcelona) for that international recognition.
He is confident that progressing from Group I of the Europa League this season could reinvigorate an international career which ended when he made his sixth appearance for his country in a 2-1 victory over Australia in May, 2016. By then he was playing for Southampton (who spent four times the £2.5m Celtic paid Newcastle United for his signature in 2012) but injury and several changes of manager at St Mary’s saw the 31-year-old fall out of favour, leading to his return to Parkhead from Hampshire on a season-long loan last month.
Forster has played a major role in Celtic’s positive start to the Europa League, starring in the 1-1 draw away to Rennes and the 2-1 home win over CFR Cluj, results which propelled them to the summit of Group I.
Now, with Lazio up next at Parkhead tomorrow night, Forster is confident that progressing to the knockout stages in 2020 can also catapult him back on to the international scene.
“I’d love to be a part of the England squad,” he said. “I’d never close that door. I’d always want that to be an ambition of mine. We went through in the Champions League when I was called up for the first time and, hopefully, we’re going through in the Europa League this year.
“Basically, it all comes down to me performing the best I can, whether it’s in the Europa League or in the Premiership. If I’m doing that consistently then it forces other people into making decisions. The main thing is that I work hard and try to do well here.”
Facing opponents from Serie A and Ligue 1 should also improve Forster’s chances of a recall – should he help Celtic to reach the round of 32 and beyond.
“Definitely – and it’s all very open at the minute,” he added. “It’s a very good group to be in, as well as one we really want to get out of. These are big games against big teams and we have a double-header against Lazio coming up.
“They’re the matches you want to play in and that’s why we all love it when Celtic are in the Champions League. Does the England manager watch the Europa League? I don’t know Gareth Southgate’s TV preferences. But, if I play as well as I can, then the rest will take care of itself.”
Lone striker Odsonne Edouard is another who has set his sights on playing at the highest level. He’s scored nine times in four appearances for France Under-21s already this season and Forster believes he can make the step up to the world champions’ senior squad. “He’s been absolutely brilliant,” he said. “I’m fortunate I get to see him every day in training. He’s been fantastic. He scored a hat-trick for the France Under-21 side the other day – in fact, he keeps banging in goals for them.
“He’s got the knack of scoring big goals at big times during games. I’ve been massively impressed by him. For certain, he’s a top, top player; he has two great feet so no one knows what he’s going to do.
“Then there’s the way he goes past opponents – you think he’ll go one way but he suddenly goes on the other side. He can take it on his left foot or right foot, which means he has the kind of variety which makes it a nightmare for defenders.
“If he keeps doing what he’s doing and works hard then there’s no absolutely no reason why he can’t go on and have an amazing career. He’s very good when you’re facing him in training.”