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Non-League Day

Foster: Tiverton gave me the chance I needed

12 Oct 2019
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Watford goalkeeper shares fond memories of Devon non-league club and manager Martyn Rogers who helped him reach Premier League

Ahead of Non-League Day on Saturday 12 October, we spoke to Premier League players who once plied their trade in levels of the game beneath the top four divisions of the English football pyramid.

Ben Foster (Watford)

For the Watford goalkeeper non-league football and one non-league hero gave him vital confidence on his path to becoming a Premier League stalwart.

Aged 19, Foster was at Stoke City, but still not close to the first team and looking for regular match action at the end of 2002.

So, in stepped Devon club Tiverton Town, then in the seventh tier of the English football pyramid, and their manager at the time, Martyn Rogers.

'He gave me a big chance'

"Tiverton were a team that I went on loan to when I was at Stoke," says Foster. "I was just craving game time and it was very hard to get a league club.

"Not many league clubs want to take a young goalie on loan to actually play in the first team. But Martyn Rogers gave me a big chance.

"I think they were playing in the Dr Martens Premier League at the time. I was there for six months or something, the last six months of the season."

"Not many league clubs want to take a young goalie on loan to actually play in the first team. But Martyn Rogers gave me a big chance."

Ben Foster on his non-league hero

It did not take long for Foster to show why he would go on to make more than 300 league appearances.

"First month, he was good,” Rogers said. “Second month, outstanding. Third month, unbelievable, unbelievable.

“I rang up Tony Pulis [the Stoke manager] and said, 'If you have better goalkeepers than him at your club, you must have good goalkeepers because this kid is something else. This lad will play for England.'

"Pulis said, 'You reckon?' I said, 'I am sure of it.' "

Rogers was proved right, with Foster winning eight caps for his country.

Lasting impression

But it was not just his performances on the field that had an impact on Tiverton.

Foster’s personality made an impression at the club, where his signed Manchester United shirt and gloves hang on the wall.

“Everybody talks about him still at this football club,” Rogers says. “He's an amazing fellow.”

Message of thanks

The admiration is mutual for Foster.

“He was brilliant,” he says of Rogers, who is now back in charge of first-team affairs at Tiverton, having managed more than 1,000 non-league matches in total.

“He was a great guy. Just as a bloke, he was absolutely class.

“He lived and breathed Tiverton Town Football Club. Everybody in the area will know him, but for me personally he was just a great guy, great manager, exactly the sort of guy I needed at the time to sort of take me under his wing. So, thanks Martyn.”

Show your support on Non-League Day

You can show support for the hundreds of semi-professional and amateur clubs around England by going to a non-league match this weekend.

To find your nearest non-league match, visit nonleagueday.co.uk/map.

Also in this series

Part 1: Vardy: I rediscovered love of football in non-league
Part 2: Murray: Non-league has a pool of talent
Part 3: Burn: Playing non-league gave me the belief to reach the top
Part 4: Pickford: Non-league matches made me a man
Part 6: Wilder: My non-league days still guide me now

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