Thursday, July 18, 2024

Ben Foster's Wrexham return is the deal that works for everyone


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It was an offer that was too good to refuse. You get the sense that Ben Foster was quite happy in retirement, diversifying his media portfolio, growing his client base, lowering his barrier. When the goalkeeper announced his decision to retire from professional soccer last September, he felt the time was right. The eight-capped England international had achieved much in the game, winning a fine run of trophies and a fan favorite at a handful of clubs.

His Watford contract had naturally come to an end, with both parties happy to move on, with Foster’s form still good but happy to hang up the gloves. With most ex-international shot stoppers approaching 40, a contract offer in the fifth tier wouldn’t even register on the radar. But, for Foster, the chance to move back to Wrexham – where, in many ways, it all began – made a lot more sense.

“The first time I was here, it was really the springboard for the rest of my career,” said Foster after signing for the club in March, after 18 years in North Wales with a transformative temporary move.

“Off the back of a loan move, playing in the LDV Vans Trophy final at the Millennium Stadium, I got the chance to move to Manchester United at the start of the following season, it was absolutely bonkers! If you had told me 18 years ago that I would have progressed my career , Then I probably don’t believe you to be honest, so I owe a lot to Wrexham.

While they were clear commercial benefits for Foster’s tie up with a club owned by a pair of Hollywood superstars, the move also made footballing sense. Manager Phil Parkinson had lost his first-choice goalkeeper Rob Lanton during the title clash with Notts County. Goalkeepers of the 39-year-old’s quality are rarely available, and his steady mind and vast playing experience could offer a lot to a squad attempting to return to the EFL for the first time in 15 years.

“I don’t need much [money]Nutrients said on his podcast, Foxcast, in response to critics who suggested that the owner’s deep pockets had attracted him back. “To be honest, the conversation took about five minutes.

“Wage-wise, it’s really peanuts… For me to line up the team and promote them. I’m a very low-maintenance player. Just get me out, I’ll do one thing.”

However romantic the story, however sensible the signing, few people noticed that Foster’s return to Wrexham was going so well. It was the closest race to the National League title in recent memory, with Notts County and the hosts closing together on 100 points and meeting the end of the season. After a blistering game that saw Wrexham fight back to go 3–2 ahead, Notts County were given one last chance by the referee pointing to the penalty spot in stoppage time.

Standing 12 yards from Sidwin Scott at stoppage time at the Racecourse Ground, Foster settled himself, wiping his eyes a little weary from a night spent watching the Masters. If Scott’s penalty had hugged the net, Notts County would have had the point they needed to apply the pressure Wrexham had faltered against Halifax three days earlier.

But Foster guessed right, hitting a heavy handed ball away to all but secure promotion. Another win would take Wrexham back into the Football League proper. Maybe Foster returns from retirement, ready to reclaim his place with Lenton at YouTube again. But that lone save made this career coda worth it – one last magic moment for the goalkeeper to show it was the rare deal that worked out for all.