It's fair to say that eyebrows were raised when Watford opted to fork out £4m on 35-year-old Ben Foster last summer.


Whilst Foster had done little wrong for West Brom during 2017/18, he could not prevent the Baggies from slipping into the Championship and, with his best years seemingly behind him, bringing him back to Vicarage Road 12 years after his previous loan spell seemed a little underwhelming.

Ben Foster

The former ​Manchester United man has often gone under the radar throughout his career, making a decent impression wherever he has played, whilst never being able to break into the coveted bracket of 'top tier' goalkeepers.


After five years of lower-league obscurity, Foster got his first big break when he was snapped up by United in 2005. He went on to make a name for himself during a two year loan spell at ​Watford before returning to Red Devils, where he made just 23 appearances in three seasons as he struggled to usurp the eminent Edwin van der Sar.


A permanent move to ​Birmingham followed in 2010 and after just one season he was on the move again, this time to ​West Brom. Six years later, Foster was left questioning whether his heart was still in the game.

Ben Foster

"I did think about retiring, definitely," he recently told the ​Daily Mail. "I had been at West Brom too long. It was monotonous and I reached a point where I asked myself, 'Do I really want this anymore?'"


As has been well established, goalkeepers are unique. Keepers not only have to contend with the strikers baring down on their goal, but more so than any other position on the field, they face a constant battle with their own mind. One spilled cross, one misplaced pass or one mistimed jump can have catastrophic implications, both short-term and long-term.


Just ask Loris Karius. Concussion or not, the German slipped up on two occasions in the Champions League final and had to spend the summer reflecting on what was the worst night of his career, no doubt replaying his mistakes over and over in his head, knowing that he was responsible for costing ​Liverpool the biggest prize of them all.

Loris Karius

His mental state was affected, and that was made all the more evident by the various mistakes he made when he returned to pre-season action. The result? He was quickly replaced by Alisson and subsequently shipped out on loan to Besiktas.


Fortunately for Foster, he hasn't made any mistakes of the same magnitude but, by his own admission, the mental strain of playing in goal at the highest level was beginning to take its toll.


"I was dead scared when Watford came in. I was like, 'Do I need the stress of a new challenge? Can I do the commute?' All this stuff.

"Meeting a whole new team of players, making friends, strapping a smile on and going in there and being this experienced goalkeeper that everybody thinks you are. A room full of 30 blokes you don't know, it's tough, intimidating."


And banishing those demons has been the key to his recent success. He no longer cares about anything other than enjoying himself on the pitch and Watford have been reaping the benefits. Foster has been in inspired form all season, pulling off breathtaking saves and earning points for the Hornets almost single-handedly - all with a genuine look of excitement etched across his face.


"In the last couple of years I have grown a lot as a goalie and as a bloke,' he explained. "I am super happy in my own skin. I know what I can and can't do.

Ben Foster

"We were at Tottenham recently in the middle of a big game, but I could look around and think, 'Yeah, this is decent. I am enjoying this', and that was great."


And, whilst his performances have been superb enough in themselves, he's also managed to break a rather impressive record. Foster now holds the record for the most saves in Premier League history since records began back in 2006.


What lies next, only Foster will know. He's contracted to remain with Watford for another season and, after such a remarkable campaign, there is no reason for the Hornets to find a replacement just yet.


As plenty of keepers have proven before, age really is just a number. The likes of Brad Friedel and Mark Schwarzer both continued to play Premier League football into their forties, so there is every chance that Foster will be sticking around for a little while longer.