England, Southampton keeper Fraser Forster 'delighted' to be playing again

Fraser Forster's long journey back from a horrific knee injury was made less tortuous by the support of England's goalkeeping coach and a man he is keeping out of the national team, Ben Foster.

An impressive first season at Southampton was brought to an excruciating halt last March after he fell awkwardly in a collision with Burnley striker Sam Vokes.

Forster damaged his left patellar tendon and spent nine months out of the game, although his exceptional displays since returning have belied that lengthy absence.

The 28-year-old's fine form saw him win February's Premier League Player of the Month award, drag Saints up the standings and break the club's top-flight record for the longest run of minutes without conceding a goal.

"I've been delighted," Forster said. "It couldn't have really gone much better, I think.

"After being out for so long, it was just nice to be playing football again.

"I kind of came back and felt like I was playing with no pressure, which was really nice.

"It was nice that the team obviously went on a good run and I was limited in what I had to do in some games.

"But, yeah, it is just nice to be back playing football again and having the opportunity to do the thing that I love.

"I just think it changes a bit when you're injured.

"You're worried about all sorts when you're injured and then I think sometimes you can forget you play football for the love of the game, really."

Forster says he never feared for his career but there were, understandably, tough patches, especially the four-day period between sustaining the injury and going under the knife.

He is left with a hefty scar from the "gruesome" operation but cannot thank the surgeon enough, nor the medical team at Southampton and the support he received from West Brom goalkeeper Foster.

The pair, and Joe Hart, formed England's goalkeeping triumvirate at the 2014 World Cup, with an already close bond strengthened by Forster's injury coming the week after Foster suffered cruciate knee ligament damage.

"Me and Ben would speak a few times a week," the Saints goalkeeper said.

"Obviously it was a different injury, but we've always had that relationship. We've always clicked and got on really well.

"I think he only did his cruciate the week before I got injured, so we'd speak to each other the whole time and just keep each other going, see what each other were up to and go from there.

"You know, having people like that who've been through serious injuries or are going through them are absolutely vital.

"I think Theo [Walcott] texted me the day I did it as well and it's great to have people like that, who have got that experience of injuries and can tell you what to expect before you actually get there."

There appears to be no mental hangover from the injury, thanks in no small part to the support Forster has received from Southampton and England goalkeeping coach Dave Watson.

The 42-year-old's playing career was brought to an abrupt halt by a knee injury, so was another important sounding board.

"I was very fortunate to have Dave," Forster said. "He obviously had that bad injury and went through it as well so he could understand mentally what I had been going through.

"Dave is very driven as well and he was fantastic when I got back to the pitch stage of rehab and he was fantastic with me doing sessions in the afternoon and one-on-one work.

"It is a real credit to him that I came back as sharp as I did due to the work that I did with him."

Now Forster is waiting to see whether he gets the nod ahead of in-form Jack Butland, with Hart absent for Saturday's friendly against world champions Germany.

Representing England 371 days after his horrific injury would be an impressive feat and one which would put him the opposite goal to one of the world's best.

"Obviously Manuel Neuer is a fantastic keeper and just has got this brilliant habit of keeping the ball out of the net," Forster said.

"He obviously has a really good reading of the game and starting position.

"They are all things you can try and take out of your game if it fits into the way you play or the way your team plays.

"But obviously Neuer is a top, top keeper and would be right up there as the best in the world, probably."