One that I had great hopes of, who literally sold the golden ticket, was Xavier Sanchez Broto. For a few games at the end of the Seville season he looked the real deal, but his – or his agent’s – attempts to play hard ball with MON brought his embryonic Celtic career to a shuddering halt.
The point in this brief reminiscence is that goalies have never really featured in the pantheon of great Celtic players, so to consider the players of the year and find a goalkeeper as my subject is unusual at best.
To be honest I wondered throughout the last close season why Neil Lennon pursued Forster with such fervour, to the extent that he was prepared to sanction another year’s loan. His performances in the previous twelve months had been unspectacular and often uncertain. He made the odd good save, but was also culpable for a number of poor goals which cost us dear none more so in my opinion than the two in the league cup final against the Forces of Darkness.
At the same time I could not – still cannot – understand why Forster was apparently happy to accept a loan deal while the two clubs had agreed a potential transfer fee at the same time.
My reading of it is that any uncertainty over his permanent acquisition to the colours lies on his side and not on Neil Lennon’s. I suspect he still thinks that the big, big time lies south of the border and is encouraged in this by his agent.
His start to the season just ended was similar in my view to his first year. During the period when the team was struggling he showed nothing that would point the way to his current standing amongst the support or to indicate that he should be retained on a full time contract. Gradually however as the season unfolded he began to make saves that meant something – saves that sealed a win or prevented a defeat.
This metamorphosis was brought to completion by his penalty save against the Hearts just before Christmas. Celtic were not that great that day, but Victor’s goal – which came out of the blue – was matched in terms of importance by Fraser’s wonderful penalty save. The unbeaten run continued and as the team grew so did the goalkeeper. He made several saves, including two which should rightfully have been goals, which turned games.
The brilliance of his interventions was so electric that the team responded and began to play with confidence and authority for most of the remaining games. Despite the presence of Lukas Zaluska – who would I think hold down a place in most teams – there is now no doubt that Forster is the number 1 goalkeeper at Celtic Park.
As I write he has still to put pen to paper on a permanent contract and this may be the reason why this piece is less than over whelming in its praise. There can be no doubt that he was amongst the top ten players of the season, but the next few weeks and years will determine whether he becomes a Celtic legend, or simply someone who like Craig Bellamy lit up the place for a brief but dazzling episode before trading gold for glory.