Clarke: Foster no certainty to start
Steve Clarke has hinted that Ben Foster could be facing a challenge to regain his West Bromwich Albion spot as the race for England World Cup finals places hot up.
Foster, having stepped out of international retirement last season, is currently half-way through what could be a 12-week absence from action with a stress fracture of a bone in his foot.
That leaves him hoping for a comeback shortly before Christmas but Albion's head coach admits the keeper's stand-in Boaz Myhill might take a lot of shifting.
And that would leave Foster on edge as he seeks the match practice he requires over the second half of 2013-14 to convince his former Baggies boss Roy Hodgson to take him to Brazil.
"Boaz a great character," Clarke said. "He came in last year when Ben was injured and he has come in this year and done really well.
"It's testament to his character because it's difficult (having to wait for so long for an opportunity) and he has stepped up to the mark and we're really pleased with him.
"Performances are everything and you try to build up a culture of competition at the club. He has the jersey and he is doing well.
"We have defended well, which has helped Boaz, but he has played a big part in it."
Clarke has had a minor pick-me-up to perform with the Welshman at the end of this week after he was left out in favour of Wolves' Wayne Hennessey for the victory over Macedonia last weekend and the follow-up draw in Belgium.
"I had a brief chat with him and he was not too down about it," he added. "He was a bit disappointed not to have played one of the games but Chris Coleman made a change last Friday and decided to stick with it because it went well."
California-born Myhill has played all of Albion's last five Premier League matches and has been an assured presence in a dramatic improvement marked by the winning of four points from successive games against Manchester United away and Arsenal at home.
His form has prevented Lee Camp from having a look-in at first-team level at the club and also kept Luke Daniels in the shadows.
The strength in the position also underlines the cover Clarke has in all areas of his side - a depth of competition that is likely to prompt him to send George Thorne out on loan when he is fully fit.
The young midfielder has not played since damaging his cruciate knee ligaments in a defeat at Everton last winter but impressed when borrowed by Peterborough in the first half of 2012-13.
The loan option is not one Clarke is likely to take, though, with Zoltan Gera, who is also nearing fitness and ready to stake a claim for a place."Zoltan is more experienced and perhaps able to pick up the pace easier," he said. "He needs training sessions just to get him back up to speed. We can use the under-21 team to get him minutes on the pitch but he is another who has a big part to play here."