The ‘relegation bargain bucket bonanza’ has become a bit of a tradition in football (still needs some work on the title, admittedly).
No sooner has a club had the dreaded letter ‘R’ placed beside them on the league table do the vultures begin to circle, in the hope of picking off their top talents at a cut-price.
With Norwich City, Watford and Bournemouth all condemned to life back in the second tier, a whole host of their best players are already being linked with – or have already completed in some cases - moves back to the Premier League.
However, one name which has attracted very little attention is Watford’s Ben Foster.
The former England man has been a standout performer for the Hornets since his arrival in 2018, producing consistently week after week.
At 37 he’s undoubtedly entering the twilight of his career, however, his performances last season proved he’s still got a lot to offer in England’s top tier.
1. Leeds United
If Marcelo Bielsa thought the hard work was done in getting Leeds to the Premier League – he was sadly mistaken.
The Whites boss has a huge summer ahead of him as he looks to strengthen a side that’s already significantly weakened following the expiration of loan deals.
One position in particular which needs addressing is their goalkeeper.
Former Real Madrid man Kiko Casilla was Bielsa’s number one last season, though in truth he barely looked good enough for the Championship, never mind the Premier League.
The 33-year-old’s numerous blunders were papered over by a free-scoring Leeds attack, with their solid defensive unit taking far more credit for their promotion than the man between the sticks.
The signing of Foster may not be a long-term fix, but it would add some much-needed Premier League experience and quality to the Leeds starting XI.
2. Sheffield United
Dean Henderson’s return to Manchester United has looked a foregone conclusion for some time now, though the Blades’ bid for Aaron Ramsdale seems to have confirmed it.
Whoever Chris Wilder brings in to replace Henderson has got some big shoes – or gloves – to fill.
Only three Premier League sides conceded fewer than Sheffield United last season, with their defensive solidarity proving instrumental in their ninth-place finish.
Wilder’s approach for Ramsdale suggests he’s keen to bring in a replacement who knows all about the Premier League, and Foster would offer just that. The Watford man would also likely be a cheaper alternative given the Cherries have already rejected a £12m bid.
3. Aston Villa
With Pepe Reina returning to parent club AC Milan and Ørjan Nyland, well, basically not looking very good, Dean Smith will know he needs to bolster his options.
Tom Heaton is expected to be fit for the start of the 2020/21 campaign, though it remains to be seen what sort of impact the ACL injury will have had on the 34-year-old.
At the very least Foster would offer quality backup for the former Burnley man.
However, with Villa keen to avoid another season fighting off the threat of relegation, throwing Heaton straight back into the mix after nine months without first-team football may be ill-advised - and Foster would be a solid alternative.
Southampton have had a bit of a nightmare with goalkeepers in recent years – they start out really well and then just end up looking a bit average.
Fraser Forster, Alex McCarthy and Angus Gunn are the latest to be struck down by the south coast curse, with the former performing admirably during his loan move back to previous employers Celtic.
McCarthy looked impressive having broken into the Saints first team in 2017, though since then his career has been marred by silly errors. Gunn, meanwhile, started the first ten games of last season, but then conceded NINE against Leicester - and hasn't been seen since.
With Forster’s time at St. Mary’s looking set to come to an end this summer, the signing of Foster would not only make sense in terms of a replacement, but he would also bring some solidity to a fragile backline.
There’s not really a lot more which needs to be said about Jordan Pickford.
The former Sunderland man has been living off his World Cup 2018 exploits ever since that heroic lunge to deny Colombia’s Carlos Bacca’s from the spot.
Since then his Everton career has been littered with simple mistakes – many of which have cost his side points – and it would be difficult to see a taskmaster like Carlo Ancelotti willing to persist with him for much longer.
While the signing of Foster wouldn’t fit with the ethos the club seem to be trying to instil by bringing in youngsters, if Everton want to progress from mid-table mediocrity then they need experience.
While Fulham have been lauded for returning to the Premier League at the first time of asking, in truth they made a bit of a meal of it.
Admittedly winning the play-off final is the best way to be promoted, but with the squad they have the Cottagers should have gone up automatically.
Slovakian Marek Rodák was Scott Parker’s number last season, and it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve his chance in the Premier League. However, at just 23 years of age Fulham are in desperate need of an experienced deputy at the very least.
Including Fulham’s other senior options, Jordan Archer and Marcus Bettinelli, their goalkeeping department share just seven top-flight appearances between them, and if Parker is to avoid a repeat of their instant return to the second tier, he’ll know he needs at least one addition.
7. Crystal Palace
Wayne Hennessey’s time at the top seems to be drawing to a close. The Welshman looked poor whenever he was given the nod last season and a drop down the divisions seems inevitable.
The emergence of Vicente Guaita over the last two seasons has helped to soften the blow for Roy Hodgson, with the Spaniard producing some quality displays.
Similarly to Sheffield United, Crystal Palace rely heavily on their goalkeeper, with their frontmen proving far from prolific.
With just ten months remaining on his current deal, reports suggest La Liga side Real Betis are pursuing Guaita, and Palace may well be forced to cash in on their number one to avoid losing him on a free next year.
With their first and second-choice keepers potentially leaving this summer, a move Foster would make perfect sense for Palace - and a move to a fellow London club could look appealing to the Watford number one.
8. Leicester City
With speculation beginning to mount over the future of Kasper Schmeichel, Brendan Rodgers is far too savvy to have not already looked at potential replacements.
The Foxes boss will no doubt be intent on keeping hold of his Danish stopper, though if big money is offered for the 33-year-old the decision may well be taken out of his hands.
Leicester’s recent recruitment has been excellent, with their squad now brimming with young talent and senior pros.
Should they fail to keep hold of Schmeichel, depending when the deal goes through they may have very little time to bring in a replacement, and Foster could prove to be a solid stopgap while they seek a more long-term fix.
9. West Bromwich Albion
Sam Johnstone had another solid year in the Championship last season and it would be difficult to envisage Slaven Bilić not sticking with him next season.
However, much like Fulham, West Brom have next to no Premier League experience in their goalkeeping ranks – in fact, the closest they’ve got to it is Johnstone appearing on the bench for United.
Reinforcements are definitely needed and Foster would be the perfect fit.
A man who knows all about the club having spent six seasons at The Hawthorns, he could mentor their young crop of goalkeepers and wouldn’t represent a significant outlay.