Tough to call where Fraser will end up
Chris LakeyFraser Forster was in good company when he received his Players' Player of the Year accolade in midweek. The presentation took place during the end of season dinner in the Norfolk Lounge at Carrow Road, which pays homage to some of the club's great keepers.Chris Lakey
Fraser Forster was in good company when he received his Players' Player of the Year accolade in midweek.
The presentation took place during the end of season dinner in the Norfolk Lounge at Carrow Road, which pays homage to some of the club's great keepers.
It's a peculiarity that Norwich has been home to some legendary stoppers: the beaming face of Bryan Gunn greets people as they walk in, and on the walls there are excellent shots of Kevin Keeelan, Chris Woods and Roger Hansbury.
As Forster clutched his award, compere Kevin Piper said: "Some of the greats hang from these walls.
"One day, you could hang there with them. If you don't come back next season, you'll be hanging from the Castle walls."
Good line - and one which the audience's response proved that Forster is a much treasured member of this season's League One squad.
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Forster has proved that signing loan players isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as it's done in moderation. Last season they came and went at such regular intervals it was hard to keep count.
Not many stayed very long, not many will be remembered.
But Forster has been almost a permanent addition, arriving at the end of August after starting the season with tomorrow's opponents, Bristol Rovers. The west country club had been anticipating a longer stay for the man from Newcastle, but Paul Lambert nipped in with a better offer and Forster turned up at Hartlepool on August 29.
He's made 40 appearances - 36 in League One - and that makes him part of the furniture.
So. Will he stay or will he go?
Newcastle's promotion to the Premier League has certainly helped City's case for bringing him back: had Newcastle stayed down, then their manager, Chris Hughton, wouldn't have allowed him to go to a club in the same division.
Also, Hughton may consider that a season in League One isn't quite enough to earn a place in a Premier League squad - but what better way for Forster to get a little more experience than to allow him play in a Championship campaign?
If you need confirmation of that, then perhaps it came this week when Hughton confirmed that Tim Krul will "play a part" in Newcastle's game at QPR on Sunday. Hughton's made it clear that Steve Harper is number one, and will remain number one next season, but is he taking a look at the way Krul handles the job to see whether he can become the permanent number two, and keep Forster out of the picture?
Hughton also has Ole Soderberg, so Forster has plenty of competition and, as he says, there's no substitute for playing.
Lambert will put a call into Hughton and no doubt remind him of what he's learned at Carrow Road, how it's benefited all parties, what a good place Carrow Road is for a 22-year-old who, before Hartlepool, had played just 11 senior games.
Hughton might not need reminding Robert Green learned his trade on the Colney training fields, and he certainly won't need telling City isn't just a club that bounces between League One and the Championship: it's a bigger set-up than that. It's a 25,000-a-week set-up, with facilities, prestige and reputation to match.
And it has a manager who quickly made Forster his first signing, managed to keep him for the rest of the season and has since reserved his biggest praise for the man from Hexham.
Sounds like there isn't a downside, doesn't it? But, as usual, there will be someone ready to step in and try and ruin the best laid plans.
Hughton has already told Arsenal, Spurs and Stoke to keep their hands off Forster.
"He's under contract and he's not for sale," said Hughton in January.
However, Hughton's interests and priorities are with Newcastle United, no one else. So if Hughton believes a loan spell at a different Championship club would be better, then he will go to a different Championship club. Likewise, if he believes Harper, Krul and Soderberg are his one, two and three, then he may allow Forster to go - and would City have the money to compete?
Forster has stated he needs to play regularly, but if Hughton doesn't grant him that, will there be a permanent parting of the ways?
Geordie born and bred Forster may be, but that hasn't prevented others from settling here.
Gunn came south in 1986 and, apart from a brief return with Hibs, stayed; Green came up from Woking; Keelan from Wrexham - outfield players have done the same. Many are still around.
It's a good place to live - Lambert will try and persuade everyone concerned that it's also a good place to learn, that City can be the perfect Forster parents.