How Scottish Football Has Helped Springboard English Goalkeepers

By Stewart Ross

News • Nov 11, 2023

How Scottish Football Has Helped Springboard English Goalkeepers

How has the game north of the border helped platform - and rejuvenate - English goalkeeping talent?

Scottish football has not always been viewed in the most positive light by those outside of the game, particularly south of the border. 

However, with recent back-to-back qualifications for the European Championships secured by the men’s national team, and a raft of young talent making their mark in top leagues around Europe, that perception has started to shift.

As well as nurturing homegrown talent, Scottish football has also offered a platform for young English players to develop their game, including several goalkeepers. 

Current examples in the SPFL Premiership include Zach Hemming (23), on loan at St Mirren from Middlesbrough, Will Dennis (23), on loan at Kilmarnock from Bournemouth and Shamal George (25), a top performer for overachieving Livingston. 

Providing a pathway to a career at the highest level for younger goalkeepers, Scottish football has also given older English goalkeepers a platform to rejuvenate their careers. Here we take a look at some of those who have launched, or relaunched, their careers in Scotland. 

Freddie Woodman 

Kilmarnock has been something of a go-to destination for young goalkeepers from England in recent years. The previously mentioned Will Dennis is currently enjoying a productive start to his loan at Rugby Park this season while Zach Hemming also had a spell at Killie before swapping Ayrshire for Paisley for his latest temporary switch from Boro. 

Both Dennis and Hemming have followed in the footsteps of current Preston North End number one Freddie Woodman, who had a loan spell at Kilmarnock during his time at Newcastle United. 

Just 18 at the time, Woodman turned out 15 times for Killie under Lee Clark in the 2016/17 season before returning to Scotland for a loan spell with Aberdeen the following season where he made five Premiership appearances and started three Scottish Cup ties.

Loans with Swansea and Bournemouth followed before the former England Under-21 international made a permanent move to Preston, currently in the top six of the Championship, last summer.

Citing former Killie teammate Jamie McDonald one of the best goalkeepers he trained alongside, getting over 20 games for two top-flight Scottish clubs as a teenager played a significant role in accelerating Woodman’s development, helping him on a pathway that has led to him becoming one of the Championship’s top goalkeepers. 

Fraser Forster 

Another English goalkeeper who developed his game north of the border before going on to have a successful career in his homeland is Fraser Forster. 

Like Woodman, Forster had loan spells in Scotland’s top flight while at Newcastle with both of his loans coming at Celtic under Neil Lennon before he decided to join the Parkhead club permanently in 2012. 

Forster won three league titles and two Scottish Cups during his initial stint at Celtic but it was his heroics in the Champions League, particularly against a peak Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona, that propelled him into the spotlight back in England. 

The Argentine star recently commented that he and his Barcelona teammates had discussed Forster making a move to the Nou Camp upon Victor Valdes' departure, following that incredible display.

This led to a call-up to the national team for Forster, earning the first of his six England caps in late 2013 before making a £10m move to Southampton in 2014. Going on to make over 150 appearances for The Saints, broken up by a loan switch back to Celtic in 2019/20, Forster is currently one of Ange Postecoglou’s backup goalkeeper options at Spurs. 

Developed during two temporary spells before going on to perform in Europe’s top competition, there is no doubt Forster’s time in Glasgow’s East End provided him with the platform to go on and perform in the Premier League. Funnily enough, it was during the loan spell in 2019/20 that the Englishman recaptured some of the form that had seem him earn a Premier League move nearly a decade earlier. 

Wes Foderingham 

A bit older than Woodman and Forster when they first made their moves north, Sheffield United’s Wes Foderingham is another goalkeeper who used his time in Scotland to help further his career at the highest level.

Foderingham already had more than 150 appearances in the English Football League for Swindon Town to his name before he was signed by Mark Warburton during Rangers’ Championship-winning season in 2015/16 aged 24. 

After helping the Light Blues gain promotion to the Premiership, Foderingham remained first choice at Ibrox until Alan McGregor’s return in 2018. Returning to England in 2020 with Sheffield United, Foderingham took over as first choice between the sticks after Aaron Ramsdale’s move to Arsenal, helping The Blades gain promotion to the Premier League last season.

Although second choice towards the end of his spell with Rangers, Foderingham has described his time in Scotland, and dealing with the pressure that comes with playing for a club with the demands of Rangers, as a huge learning curve and one that gave him a foundation to be able to perform at the very top level of English football.

Joe Hart 

Falling into the ‘relaunch’ category, Joe Hart is an English goalkeeper who has found a second home in Scottish football. It came just at a point where his career could have petered out. 

After loan spells away from Manchester City, where he won two Premier Leagues, two League Cups and an FA Cup, Hart was playing a backup role at Spurs when he was called north by Ange Postecoglou in his first season in charge at Celtic. 

Offering him an opportunity to play regularly, and on the European stage again, Hart provided a steady presence for the young, attacking side being built by Postecoglou, particularly in the early months of the Aussie’s tenure.  

Hart has since been an ever-present for The Hoops, picking up a Premiership and League Cup double in the 2021/22 season before becoming the first man since Kenny Dalglish to win all three trophies on either side of the English-Scottish border last season as Postecoglou’s side swept the board. 

Now 36, Hart has already played over 100 games for Celtic and remains the number one for Postecoglou's successor at Celtic, Brendan Rodgers. Enjoying the kind of rejuvenation to his career in Scotland that Jack Butland is now hoping to emulate across the city with Rangers, Hart will be aiming to continue his decorated spell in Scotland by holding off his former England goalkeeping counterpart to make it three league titles in a row. 

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