Mjallby hails Forster credentials

PA Sport
Fraser Forster has yet to make his England debut
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Fraser Forster has yet to make his England debut

Johan Mjallby believes Celtic need to make it through to the Champions League knock-out stages to ward off potential suitors for goalkeeper Fraser Forster.

With Joe Hart's dip in form continuing in Sweden on Wednesday night, genuine questions are being asked about alternatives for the England number one spot for virtually the first time since the Manchester City man succeeded David James as first choice in 2010.

Forster's name is cropping up given how well he played in two meetings with Barcelona over the past few weeks, especially at Celtic Park eight days ago when he inspired the Hoops to a sensational Champions League win.

Assistant to manager Neil Lennon with the Hoops, Mjallby was back in his native Sweden hoping to see Forster make his international bow. It did not happen, with Roy Hodgson preferring instead to stick with Hart throughout the 4-2 defeat.

But, in a way, that fact might cause more anxiety at Celtic, if Forster feels he has to take a step up in competition to attract the England boss' eye.

"Fraser can challenge to be England goalkeeper by playing in Scotland but it is going to be important for him to play a lot in Europe," said Mjallby. "The game in Scotland is in a bit of disarray right now.

"It is hard for us. But we have shown, by bringing players from all over the world and without spending much, it is possible for us to build quite an interesting team. However, it is important for us to try and go through in the Champions League, otherwise there might be a few clubs down south trying to get our players."

When it came to the issue of Hart, Hodgson found himself forced onto the defensive. Of the 27 matches England have played since they returned from South Africa, Hart has missed just three and a half. For the first of those - against France in November 2010 - he was replaced by Ben Foster, who no longer wishes to be considered for his country.

He was replaced by Scott Carson against Sweden 12 months later and then Robert Green took over for the friendly in Norway prior to Euro 2012. As neither of those two keepers are presently under consideration, it means the only senior international experience open to England other than Hart's 27 caps are the 45 minutes handed to both Jack Butland and John Ruddy against Italy in August.

"It is that old 'being wise after the event' thing," said Hodgson. "If I play a goalkeeper for 90 minutes and he concedes two goals in the last 10 people someone will say someone else should have played. We know where Ruddy and Forster are. I was only allowed six substitutions. Five had to stay on the field. We decided one of those would be the goalkeeper."

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