‘Gut instinct’ has made Celtic’s Fraser Forster the penalty-saving king

If Kilmarnock midfielder Alan Power can take any consolation from his failure to beat Fraser Forster from 12 yards at Celtic Park on Sunday, he might find it in the fact it places him among illustrious 
company.

Fraser Forster says he has a knack of second-guessing penalty-takerS. Picture: SNS.
Fraser Forster says he has a knack of second-guessing penalty-takerS. Picture: SNS.

Harry Kane and James Milner, two of the most proficient penalty takers in the English Premier League, are among the others who have been defied from the spot by the 6ft 7ins goalkeeper.

When Forster kept out Power’s attempt in Celtic’s 3-1 win at the weekend, it was his 13th penalty save from the 34 he has faced in his career so far. That remarkable success ratio of almost 40 per cent is among the best of any current goalkeeper in Europe’s top-flight leagues.

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While the 31-year-old’s size and stature are obvious attributes when it comes to placing doubt in any penalty taker’s mind, he believes he has simply developed a fine instinct for second-guessing his opponents.

“The more penalties you face, the more ideas you get but I usually go with my gut feeling,” said Forster. “There are little tell-tale signs of what the penalty taker is going to do but, more often than not, it’s just a feeling. You back yourself and hopefully you go the right way and save it.

“The number I have saved now is a nice stat but I still need to get it up a bit more! Seriously, there’s not really a secret to it. We don’t work on penalties every day in training but we do it now and again.

“I’ll also have a chat with our goalkeeping coach Stevie Woods about a few things before a game and work on that. You might know in advance what to expect from the penalty taker of different teams but it just depends.

“A lot of teams have different players who take penalties, certainly more than it used to be. There used to be a designated one who would always take them, but it changes more often now.

“Players also mix it up a lot more, too. They never go the same way all the time. So, as I say, you just need to go with your gut instinct and take it from there.

“Experience is huge when it comes to penalties. The more you face, the more you know what to expect in that situation. You get new ideas and you know what feeling to expect. The more you face and the more you get, the better you feel.”

Since rejoining Celtic on a season-long loan from Southampton, Forster has settled in quickly in his five appearances so far as the Scottish champions have reached the Europa League group stage and extended their 100 per cent winning start to their Premiership title defence.

He admits to having been more than a little taken aback by the standard of the squad currently at manager Neil Lennon’s disposal. The England international believes they could hold their own south of the Border.

“I knew there was a good squad here but it’s only when you see players training day in and day out that you actually see what they can do,” he added.

“I have been surprised at just how good they are. The younger lads, especially, are so talented. Ryan Christie has been absolutely brilliant – he is so positive and everything he does, he looks to get the team up the pitch.

“Odsonne Edouard is another one – it’s only when you see him in training that you really appreciate his quality. He’s a fantastic player and we’re very fortunate that he’s in our squad and team.

“It’s hard when you compare the leagues north and south of the Border. But I definitely don’t see this as being a step down or backwards from Southampton.

“Ultimately, I’ve come here to win trophies and compete at the top of the league. Not many people in football get to go out and do that and try to win 
competitions.

“But I think Celtic would do all right in England. Looking at what we’ve got in the dressing room and the team we’ve got, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t have a comfortable season in the Premier League.

“I’m absolutely loving being back at Celtic and back playing again. One of the great things about being up here is that there are so many games and playing twice a week is brilliant – especially for me after my gap year down south!

“Once you are on a good run as well, it’s great just having that next game to look forward to. So I’m not looking too far ahead, I just want to enjoy playing again and see where it takes us.”