The Birmingham manager is backing Foster to regain his England spot now that he will have the opportunity to play regularly in the first team at St Andrew's.

Hart has forced his way into contention to be England's goalkeeper at the World Cup after an outstanding season on loan from Manchester City.

Foster, 27, played only a handful of games for United but McLeish is confident he can fulfil his potential at Birmingham.

McLeish told Press Association Sport: "Joe came to us and made the position his own and I did say to (then co-owner) Dave Sullivan at the time that I wanted to buy a goalkeeper.

"He thought we should concentrate on outfield players but a goalkeeper can save you 15 points a season. Joe Hart did that for us and Ben Foster is capable of doing that as well.

"He now needs to get away from playing second fiddle. Edwin van der Sar looks like he could go on playing until he's about 60!

"He's a world-class 'keeper, and I'm sure Ben learnt a lot from him, but now it's time for Ben to spread his wings."

McLeish added: "Is Foster capable of getting his England place back? We think so but the two words that are appropriate are 'playing regularly'.

"I met Fabio Capello and his entourage at the Community Shield game last year, when Ben played, and the England goalkeeping coach said to me it was great that Joe Hart had joined us because he needed to play.

"That's what has cost Ben the England slot, it's because he hasn't played enough games, pure and simple.

"Ben is probably disappointed, he would have wanted to go to the World Cup but no World Cup manager would pick you because of your great potential.

"But I am sure he is capable of getting back in there with England."

McLeish's close relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson - he played under him at Aberdeen - helped him to win the race to sign Foster.

McLeish said: "We stole a march on rivals because of one or two connections I've got at Old Trafford. There were offers for Ben in January from other Premier League clubs.

"A deal didn't get done and that's to our good fortune. To lose someone like Joe, but then get someone in like Ben, is absolutely fantastic for Birmingham City.