Steve Foster was a pretty remarkable player. Known for his trademark headband he played over a 100 games for four different clubs (five if you count his two stints with Brighton), for us, he played 112. In a nineteen year club career, he averaged 42 games a season, for an combative outfield player, that’s a pretty amazing feat.
Foster was iconic at nearly every club he played. Ask people of a certain age about Steve Foster and they’ll talk about the Luton legend who led them to the 1988 League Cup, or the Brighton legend who led them to the 1983 FA Cup final.
Foster wasn’t a legend at Oxford though; he joined in 1989, two years after we’d been relegated from Division 1. There was a dawning reality that our odyssey to the top of English football was over, perhaps forever so, in a sense, we were stuck in a middle-aged fug – lamenting our lost youth, dreading our dotage. But, like at every other club he played he captained the side by leading a mediocre team to achieve precious little under the leadership of the uninspiring Brian Horton. It was quite a weight to carry.
Foster’s international career was as fleeting as his club career was enduring. He managed just three games spread over a period of four months. He made his debut in the Home Internationals against Northern Ireland in 1982, this preceded a friendly against Holland. It was a surprise, then, when he found himself on the plane to Spain for the ’82 World Cup ahead of Russel Osman and Alvin Martin in an England squad which only featured three centre-backs. It was a time of renewed fervour as England were making their first appearance in the finals since 1970.
England’s first choice duo was Terry Butcher and Phil Thompson, a partnership that contributed two wins in England’s opening games over France and Czechoslovakia. Qualification for the second phase gave Ron Greenwood the opportunity to rest some players and Butcher stepped down to be replaced by Foster, who hadn’t even made the bench previously.
Foster contributed to a clean sheet in a 1-0 win against Kuwait with Trevor Francis scoring. It was the peak and the end of his international career at 24. His only other notable contribution was providing backing vocals to the squad’s 1982 World Cup song, the number 2 hit This Time.
Foster played for another 14 years in a stellar club career, we got him for a couple of years when he was on the way down and didn’t see anything like the best of him, but that doesn’t detract from the fact for 90 minutes, he played on the world’s greatest stage.