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Saturday, 7 January 2012

Just who is Richard Foster?

In these days of the modern media and highly intensive press interest there are very few transfers that come from nowhere, names that appear out of the blue and lead fans scurrying for Google to find out more about them.

At around 11:30pm one Thursday night the back page of the Daily Record managed to get an exclusive that seemed to surprise everyone in Scotland and Bristol.  This is good journalism – scooping a story that no-one else has and then having the satisfaction of seeing that story come to fruition almost immediately.  By tea-time the following day Bristol City tweeted via their official account that the Aberdeen captain was indeed heading to the West Country.
Although many suspected that City manager Derek McInnes had been looking north of the border for new signings, this was a name that hadn’t cropped up and one that few – if any – City fans had heard of.  Still now there seems a relative lack of hard information about the new man at the Gate.
The immediate reaction of Aberdeen fans on Twitter and their forum was almost unanimous – they could barely be happier with the news!  “Thank God” and “I can’t believe someone’s paying for him” were amongst two of the more repeatable comments, although on further investigation it seems that the fact he went on loan to Rangers has helped to harvest some of this ill-feeling.
After all, this is a player who has been virtually ever-present for Aberdeen for five years, despite a training ground row with former manager Jimmy Calderwood (Foster allegedly called his former manager “stupid”), with his only time out being the short-term switch to Ibrox which manifested itself after Mark McGhee was re-appointed as manager.
Foster’s tale of the tape is solid enough.  A winger as a youngster making his way, he is fairly short for a footballer at 5’9” and is 26 years old – a footballer in his prime perhaps?  He was tried out at left-back four years ago and has barely looked back since, totting up more than 200 appearances for Aberdeen largely in one of the full back positions, including UEFA Cup experiences against FC Copenhagen and German giants Bayern Munich, where he faced prestigious opponents including Lukas Podolski, Luca Toni and Mark van Bommel.

During his time in Glasgow, Foster predominently played in European matches and was adept enough to keep Nani quiet during the Gers' narrow home defeat to Manchester United.
His key abilities are pace and commitment – something even his harshest critics agree on.  Genuine raw pace – an attribute that shouldn’t be under-estimated when slotting into City’s back line which isn’t the nippiest.
For every Aberdeen fan that seems glad Foster is departing there are others  who watch Scottish football who are less harsh.  Chris Burke (@chrisburke) wrote on Twitter that “I’m sad to hear Ricky Foster is leaving the Dons, he’s been my favourite player for the past few years”, whilst Bath-based Tom Hiscott (@Hiscott) remarked even more promisingly “Foster is a quality signing for Bristol City. Saw him on loan at Rangers and he looked good and won the (title)”.
Scott Burns (@ScottBurns75), a football writer for the Scottish Daily Express told me that he felt his lack of height and physical presence might go against him but he his pace and willingness to work hard is what he relies on.  When pushed as to whether Burns felt the ex-Dons skipper was good enough for the Championship, he added, regrettably “I don’t think he is. I hope I am wrong”.
A Ross County fan (@johnamaxwell) told me that from what he’d seen of Foster he was a “good player, really versatile”, whilst one of the most comprehensive reviews I received was from Stuart Miller (@stuartmiller91) who again started with a comment on his pace, claiming it was his best asset and adding that he was “probably one of the quickest players in the league with very explosive speed” enabling him to “man-mark most wingers out of the game easily”.
Stuart wasn’t the first to say that Foster’s distribution leaves a little to be desired – perhaps the reason his career as a winger was cut short – and suggested he was fairly solid defensively, with his pace enabling him to cover any mistakes.  Indeed he went on to add he felt Foster was now “quite a mature player” who has ironed out a lot of the errors caused by his youthful exuberance.
In summary Stuart claimed City have signed “a very pacy full-back who will give 100% every game”.
Finally a view from a man at the Beeb. Liam McLeod (@liammcleod79) writes for BBC Sport Scotland and offered me this, personal view.
"Ricky Foster is a player who has divided the Aberdeen support in his more than 250 games for the club. A great man marker, Foster is arguably at his most effective off the ball. In more than 250 games for Aberdeen, the 26-year-old was a mainstay under former Dons boss Jimmy Calderwood, it was his replacement Mark McGhee who controversially loaned him out to Rangers where he would play CL and win a league winner's medal.
Foster is potentially a more effective player in a team doing well but will always give 100% even if things aren't going his way. The move is the correct one for both Aberdeen and Foster, time will tell if it's the right move for Bristol City."
Indeed, whether Foster’s spell at Ashton Gate will be a success or not remains to be seen and the negativity from many of his previous club’s supporters will undoubtedly play on the minds of many fans, but if every player a club signed had lots of pace and gave 100% every match then it would form a pretty good basis of a side.
Judgement should be withheld as with every new player, or indeed manager, especially those who have to relocate to a different country and perform in a different league.  The Championship is a highly competitive and fast-paced division so Foster will take time to adjust, but hopefully the basic attributes he possess will hold him in good stead and enable a smooth transition.
Follow me on Twitter: @TheExiledRobin

5 comments:

  1. That's a really useful round-up, thanks. As ever the OTIB hive-mind seems to have written him off - and to be honest some of the comments both from Dons fans and in your post are concerning - but we'll have to wait and see what Derek has in mind.

    I like the lad's versatility, plus I suspect he'll be in for Skuse at the first opportunity, meaning more options for the midfield three. At present we effectively have to play every experienced CM on the books in every game, this signing should give DM a few more selection options.

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  2. We can assess him when we've seen him play enough I guess - although this game (and it's fans) seems bent on pre-judging everyone and everything these days.
    the term 'Utility' player is a double edged sword though - is it he doesn't have a 'best' position, but is to be used around the defence as needed? it doesn't seem he's a central player, so if he's coming in at LB, that's a tad harsh on McGivern who hasn't played that badly, despite HIS lack of pace!. We seem to covet 'name' players too much, and so a more anonymous player can perhaps thrive.
    (thinking of the expectations of Hartley)
    in all of this though, we should also 'welcome' Pearson.

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  3. A pacey and committed full back especially at LB is something we need McGivern is more of a left winger than a left back he keeps getting caught out out of position and/or on the wrong side of players although you can't fault his willingness to throw himself in front of the ball but the number of times he has had to be bailed out by especially Nyatanga at the back is worrying. Skuse looks like a decent player at RB but not in midfield(especially as the defensive linchpin midfielder) The most important player we have in midfield based on how people can play with him there is Elliott(not the most gifted of players) everytime he is missing the link disappears when he plays Cisse and Kilkenny look twice the players even Skuse looks reasonable in midfield when playing with Elliott.
    As far as Foster goes we will be better able to judge him after he has played for us, afterall Pearson was written off by many on OTIB before he played and he has turned out to be a very successful aquisition as his pace causes panic frequently in opposition back lines as like Elliott he appears from nowhere.

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  4. Hi there.

    Really good read, I'm a Rangers fan and as you know Foster spent some time with us last year.

    I've known of him for a while, I grew up not far from him albeit I'm a few years younger.

    He's nothing special but he's a good honest pro, he was signed by Walter Smith as more of a one man bench but played about 25 games, including some Champions League matches where he didn't disappoint.

    I remember his first start in the draw against Valencia, he did miss a last minute chance but had a storming game, he was never a stand out in his other matches but did a job and was rewarded with his first medal, I wouldn't have minded him back.

    I don't think he was very happy going back to Aberdeen, I mean the abuse he was getting in a friendly was frightening and he duly told them where to go, he was also getting abuse in the city when he was there with his wife and baby son.

    Hope he does well.

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    Replies
    1. Not really surprising the treatment he got from the fans at Aberdeen as far as they are concerned the 'Old Firm' are regarded as something like the 'Anit Christ' and any one who goes there is to be regarded with suspicion probably comes from having to live in igloos and having no sun for large parts of the football season has turned the into troglidites.
      No thats a little unkind they do now have electricity and some housing so no more igloos but they are very provincial. Foster is a better player than they will admit as his spell at Gers showed it is the unreasoned hatred of somone going off to play for one of the old firm has caused this spew of bile and hatred towards Foster good luck to him away south of the border I for one wish him every sucess.

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