WHEN Fraser Forster dropped out of the match day squad, never mind the first team, at Southampton last season, forcing his way back into the England set-up never so much as entered his mind for obvious reasons.

Now he is back playing regularly for Celtic, including against top class continental opposition in the Europa League, a return to the national fold is very much in his thoughts.

Forster became only the second player in the history of the Parkhead club– Alan Thompson had been the first in 2004 when he started in a friendly against Sweden in Gothenburg – to make an appearance for his country during his first spell in Glasgow back in 2013.

The Celtic goalkeeper won his first cap against Chile at Wembley and went on to feature against Honduras in a Brazil 2014 warm-up match in Miami the following year before moving to the St Mary’s Stadium in a £10 million transfer.

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The 31-year-old, who has made six appearances for England in total, hasn’t been called up by Gareth Southgate in the last two years due to both his difficulties at club level and Jack Butland, Tom Heaton and Jordan Pickford all coming to the fore.

However, Forster is confident he can, having done so once before, thrust himself back into contention despite playing in Scotland with Celtic if he performs well in Europe.

His outstanding performances in Champions League group games against AC Milan, Ajax and Barcelona back in the 2012/13 season convinced his homeland’s then manager Roy Hodgson to hand him his chance.

He feels if he can excel the in the Europa League meeting with Lazio at Parkhead tomorrow evening and in their remaining Group I games against the Italian giants, Rennes and Cluj after that he can get himself back on Southgate’s radar.

“I’d love to be a part of the England squad,” he said. “I’d never close that door. I’d always want that to be an ambition of mine.

“We went through the Champions League the last time, we’re going through the Europa League this year. It all comes down to me performing the best I can, whether it’s Europa League or in the league.

“I don’t know Gareth Southgate’s TV preferences. But play as well as I can and the rest will take care of itself. If I’m doing that then it forces other people into making decisions. The main thing is I work hard and try to perform well here.”

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Asked if he thought the quality of the opposition in Celtic’s section would aid his cause when it comes to an international recall, Forster replied: “Definitely, it’s a very good group to be in.”

Neil Lennon’s men have made an excellent start to Group E – they were unfortunate only to draw 1-1 with Rennes in France in their opening fixture last month and then defeated Cluj 2-0 at Parkhead three weeks ago to go top by a point.

Forster helped Celtic beat Barcelona at home and reach the last 16 of the Champions League back in the 2012/13 campaign and is convinced they can progress to the knockout rounds of the Europa League this term.

“It’s a very open group at the minute, but it’s one we really want to get out of,” he said. “There are the big games against big teams and we have a double header against Lazio coming up. But they’re the games you want to play in and that’s why we all love it when Celtic are in the Champions League.”

One Celtic player who is featuring for his country at the moment, at under-21 level at least, is French striker Odsonne Edouard.

Forster has been amazed at the ability and maturity of the 21-year-old forward, who took his tally for the season to 10 with a second-half goal in the 6-0 win over Ross County on Saturday, since he returned to Scotland on a season-long loan deal back in August.

The former Paris Saint-German youth has attracted the attention of big clubs in England and across Europe as a result of his performances in recent months – Arsenal and Manchester United are the latest to be linked with multi-million pound moves for the fans’ favourite - and Forster has no doubts whatsoever he is destined for the very top.

He certainly feels his team mate, who has scored against Alashkert, Rosenborg, Salzburg, Leipzig, Sarajevo, AIK and Cluj in Europe in the past two seasons, is capable of providing the goals which help Celtic defeat their Serie A rivals Lazio tomorrow night.

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“He’s been absolutely brilliant,” said Forster. “He’s been fantastic. He keeps banging in goals for France and scored a hat-trick the other day. He has a knack of scoring big goals at big times. I’m massively impressed. For certain he’s a top player.

“I’m fortunate I get to see him every day in training. He’s got great feet and no-one knows what he’s going to do. There’s the way he goes past defenders - you think he’ll go one way but he goes the other way.

“He can take it on left foot or right foot. He’s got that variety which makes it a nightmare for defenders. He’s very good when you’re facing him in training.

“It’s hard to compare him (to other strikers) because every player is different. If he keeps doing what he’s doing and works hard there’s no reason he can’t go and have an amazing career.”