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Foster takes break from England duty

Birmingham City goalkeeper Ben Foster has made himself unavailable for England duty to concentrate on his club career.

Foster, who has five full England caps, was seen as the natural second choice goalkeeper to Joe Hart but now joins Paul Robinson in withdrawing himself from selection. While Robinson has fully retired, Foster says this may only be a break.

The goalkeeper, 28, has put the decision down to injuries and the number of games played, though this is the first season since 2006-07 that he has made more than nine league starts in a campaign when he was Watford's number one on loan from Manchester United.

Foster, who began his career with Stoke City before moving to Old Trafford, told Birmingham's official website: "Performing at the highest level game in, game out, and particularly when there's been as many matches as there have been this season, really takes it out of your body.

"It's no secret that I've had a few niggling injuries and that I've had to pull out of the past few England squads because of that. I've spoken to the management team and coaches here at Blues and told them what I want to do but it's also very important that I say just how much I have loved playing for England and being part of the set-up.

"I've enjoyed my time with England and am certainly not closing a door on the international side of things forever but this is the right thing for me to do right now in terms of club football. Inevitably every time I've had the opportunity to give my body a rest there has been an international fixture and the demands that come with that.

"In Joe (Hart) England have a goalkeeper who is extremely talented and a top guy and he is an excellent custodian for the national side to have. I have no doubt he is going to go on to be one of the greatest. But this is the right decision for me as I want to prolong my club career for as long as possible.''

But former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton believes Foster's decision to take an indefinite break from international football is "a backward step''.

"It's a strange one in the sense that he's not England's number one at the moment so he's not playing a lot of games for England," Shilton said. "I don't see how the amount of games he's playing for England is actually going to put an extra strain on him.

"Even if you're first choice, you're not playing a tremendous amount of games a year, enough to put extra stress on yourself. I would have thought to be involved in the England situation would be a priority.

"Joe Hart has established himself as the number one at the moment but it's early days and I would have thought he would want to put some pressure on and wait for a chance to become number one. It's got to be a backward step as far as I'm concerned in the long term.

"Sometimes if you are number two and you think you're not going to play a lot of games, it's not always the easiest to keep going on, but I don't think that's the case with Ben Foster because he hasn't been number two for a long time.

"It happened to me a little bit under Don Revie because he preferred Ray Clemence and I got a bit fed up with never playing and he kept promising me he was going to play me, but it's a fairly new situation with Ben Foster and Joe Hart.

"You would have thought he would want to see it out for a few years and see if he could dislodge Joe Hart. You've got the European Championships coming up, which hopefully is going to be a big tournament, and anything can happen. If he has made the decision for that reason, it's the wrong one as far as I'm concerned.''


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