FRASER FORSTER’S career is in limbo after being told he will NOT be first choice at Southampton this season.
The expected return of the fans’ favourite to Celtic collapsed in the summer amid reports he would stay at the south coast club to battle for the No.1 position.
Forster’s apparent u-turn left Hoops boss Neil Lennon with a dilemma following Craig Gordon’s exit at the end of his contract and subsequent return to Hearts.
After months of will-he-or-won’t-he speculation, it emerged the skyscraper shotstopper would remain at the Premier League club where he still has two years of a lucrative £90,000-per-week deal to run.
However, manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has now declared that Alex McCarthy will be first pick – and Forster could be on his way on another loan deal.
The 32-year-old netminder may be on the look for another club for game-time with Angus Gunn in the same position. The Saints gaffer has made it clear one of the two keepers will be on the move before the October 5 deadline.
HAMPDEN HERO…Fraser Forster saves Alfredo Morelos’ penalty-kick.
Hasenhuttl, explaining the situation to FourFourTwo, said: “We have Alex McCarthy as our number one. I think Alex made a fantastic development in the last games.
“Then on the number two position, Fraser and Gunny, one will maybe leave us and the other one will stay with us.
“Especially with the ball, we have created some habits and some automatism that Fraser just has to learn. He definitely can do it because he is also open-minded and tries to improve his game.
“The goalkeeper game is changing all the time, it’s developing, especially what you demand with the ball is definitely completely different now.
“Andrew (Sparkes, goalkeeping coach) does it over a year now with Alex and you can see that he’s normally a little bit ahead of the other guys.”
It leaves Forster at the crossroads of his career and the decision not to return to Glasgow appears to have backfired big-style.
Lennon, left with only Scott Bain with first-team experience after Gordon’s exit, shelled out £4.5million for AEK Athens’ Greek international Vasilis Barkas who arrived after agreeing a four-year contract.
SILVER SAVIOUR…Fraser Forster with the League Cup.
There seems no way back for Forster who was a major player last season, especially with his Man-of-the-Match heroics in the 1-0 Betfred League Cup Final triumph over Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side at Hampden in December. The giant goalie was unbeatable on an afternoon where he also made a swooping penalty-kick save from Alfredo Morelos.
His performances in the back-to-back 2-1 Europa League victories over Serie A giants Lazio were also outstanding and all indications at the end of the club’s ninth successive title victory pointed to a comeback, either on a temporary or permanent basis.
Reports emerged from the Southampton camp that Forster had made up his mind to stay at the club and fight for the top-team spot. However, boss Hassenhutl has made it clear McCarthy will be the man with the gloves and he will be in goal when the Saints kick off their Premier League game against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park tomorrow afternoon.
Either Forster or Gunn will be on the substitutes’ bench while Barkas will be in goal when the champions travel to Dingwall to face Ross County at the same time.