Lyle Foster on facing Vincent Kompany: 'I took him on and it was a really good battle'
For Lyle Foster‚ playing 18 games in the Belgian top-flight for Cercle Brugge in the 2019-20 season‚ pitting himself against defenders such as Vincent Kompany‚ came as a breakthrough for the 19-year-old South Africa Under-23 international.
The Orlando Pirates youth product‚ the youngest player to score for Bucs at 17‚ said he knows he needs to up his strike rate markedly from the one goal on loan at the smaller Jupiler Pro League club in Bruges to Percy Tau’s Club Brugge to impress French owners Monaco.
But the player revelled in a league known for clubs with a positive outlook towards fielding young players.
Foster started eight and came on as a substitute in 10 of Cercle’s league games‚ many as a right-wing for the normal centre-forward‚ helping them survive a grim relegation battle.
“Obviously playing so many games has been a first for me in my career‚” Foster told TimesLIVE.
“To be playing top-flight football in Belgium at my age‚ especially against the big clubs‚ against Percy and Club Brugge‚ against Genk and Anderlecht who play in the Europa and Champions League‚ is a very good experience.
“They have such quality and produce so many players for the [English] Premier League too.
"A year ago I would have been nervous to play those games but now I have the confidence to know I can.
“Against a player like [ex-Manchester City‚ now Anderlecht defender] Vincent Kompany‚ I wasn’t nervous at all. I took him on and it was a really good battle.
“At Pirates I played nine games in one season but it probably wasn’t even equivalent to one – it was five minutes and 10 minutes here and there.
"At Monaco I started one game. But here my confidence grew and I started to feel like I really was a professional player.
“Mainly also because we were fighting relegation for most of the season. We were bottom for 17 or 18 match days.
"To save the team was a good experience for me and something that taught me a lot so early in my career.”
It might have been a far worse season for Foster.
At the start of the season Cercle could barely win a game and seemed relegation certainties.
German Bernd Storck arrived as manager in October and turned things around. He also shifted Foster to the wing‚ mostly on the right.
“Out of the 18 games maybe 70 percent of them I played on the left or the right.
"The coach says I’m young‚ he says I’m very energetic and he gives me the chance as a winger‚” Foster said.
“It teaches you to adapt. It’s not my position – I’m a No 9. But it’s been a good learning experience playing on the right and working more defensively.”
Foster signed for Monaco in January 2019‚ played two Ligue 1 games at the start of the 2019-20 season before being loaned to Cercle.
Brugge were in 14th place in the 16-team Jupiler League when football in Belgium was suspended due to the coronavirus (Covid-19)‚ and safe from relegation with a match to go.