Fraser Forster was named in an England squad for the fifth time yesterday but an actual cap remains the one thing he has still to hold in those big hands.
The 6ft 7in, 25-year-old is almost there. He has moved into third place in the pecking order of England goalkeepers behind only John Ruddy of Norwich City and Manchester City's Joe Hart, the undisputed first choice of manager Roy Hodgson. The issue is undisputed only as far as Hodgson is concerned: Hart has made enough recent errors for some to believe that he should be dropped and either Ruddy or Forster given a chance in goal.
The former Motherwell custodian already has one cap, while Forster has still to break through. For all Hodgson's praise of the Hexham-born Celtic man, the suspicion remains that it is to his serious disadvantage that he plays in the SPFL Premiership rather than in the Barclays Premier League.
Forster has been linked with moves to the English top flight at various points during his three-year Celtic career and has occasionally hinted he would consider leaving to further his international prospects. Benfica were so keen on him that Celtic sent them a letter warning them about making an unlawful approach. It was even suggested in the Spanish media yesterday that Barcelona should consider him as a replacement for Victor Valdes and Jose Manuel Pinto, both of whom will leave the club at the end of the season. The daily newspaper Sport said Forster would cost around £8.5m, "an affordable price for any big European club" and that he was ready for "a big leap in his career".
The issue for Forster is this: does he have to leave Scotland in order to play for England. There was encouragement for Celtic yesterday in the words of Bob Wilson, the former Arsenal goalkeeper, who ironically enough was English born-and-bred but played twice for Scotland in 1971 after qualifying though both his parents.
According to Wilson, now 71, there is no reason for Hodgson to exclude Forster because of where he plays his club football. "A goal is a massive great chasm: 192 square foot, eight yards wide by eight feet high, and it doesn't change whether you're playing in minor leagues or big leagues. The point is to somehow perform a little bit of magic by reducing that massive goal. It's an illusion to make a goal shrink in front of people.
"Where he plays doesn't make any difference whatsoever, really. You can have great goalkeepers in the most minor league in Scotland, England or wherever, amateur goalkeepers. It's consistency that is the issue. In the last few seasons Joe Hart has been the best English goalkeeper by a mile. I think John Ruddy is a really good goalkeeper. Joe has deserved to be England goalkeeper and I am a Joe Hart fan. I sympathise with him. I read a newspaper report today with a long list of his 'errors' over two or three seasons, which is out of order really. Nowadays, I would say that every single one of the Premier League goalkeepers this season will end up making at least 12 to 15 bad errors during the season.
"I think it's good for Joe Hart as well that there's Fraser Forster and John Ruddy as serious challengers. Having said that, I don't think Roy Hodgson will betray his trust in Joe in these two games coming up for England [World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland].
"Does it make any difference that Fraser is playing in Scotland? Well it shouldn't do. He's been up against the likes of Barcelona and been absolutely brilliant. In playing in the Champions League he's probably going to have twice as much to do as he would playing for Celtic. That in itself is a real test. In any one game that you play, whatever the level, somewhere in that game you will be asked to make a crucial save and that is the sign of a great goalkeeper, to be able to keep his concentration and do that."
Wilson spent most of his career at Arsenal and, after retiring in 1974, he spent 28 years as the club's goalkeeping coach. He also became a prominent media figure and continues to comment on issues around Arsenal and goalkeeping in general. "I haven't seen much of Fraser. I've followed all the attention and all the great performances he's produced. But I will say he has been getting a great press in England as well as Scotland."
The prospect of furthering his international prospects is not the only incentive for Forster to leave Celtic one day, of course. Any sizeable Barclays Premier League club could offer him far higher wages. Forster signed a four-year contract last summer. "Money talks," said Wilson. "A goalkeeper is such a crucial part of any team that there are always going to be English sides looking for someone like him. So he is very vulnerable to an offer. But it would need to be a helluva offer to get him away from Celtic."