ALEX McCarthy is showing at Saints the skills set which once had managers and pundits cooing over his England prospects.

Now three successive seasons of patiently waiting for his chance at QPR, Crystal Palace and finally Saints have come to an end, the goalkeeper is beginning to rediscover his once-coveted potential.

The 28-year-old has only improved since he replaced Fraser Forster ten games ago and, in the FA Cup fifth-round victory at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, McCarthy produced his best display yet.

Since Forster’s form dropped off – culminating in a demoralising 5-2 loss at Tottenham on Boxing Day, McCarthy has been first-choice between the sticks for struggling Saints.

In the 2-1 win at The Hawthorns, the former Reading man produced a superb all-round performance and among several fine saves was one to tip away Grzegorz Krychowiak’s effort to keep Saints ahead in the narrow win.

McCarthy has played the waiting game in the past, playing second fiddle to Rob Green at QPR as well as Wayne Hennessey at Crystal Palace and Forster at Saints.

His career took off big-time at Reading. Former England manager Kevin Keegan described McCarthy, then a 21-year-old, as “incredible” after he kept a clean-sheet with several stunning saves in the Championship Royals’ 1-0 win at Everton in the FA Cup fifth-round in March 2011.

After spending five seasons on loan at various clubs, including Leeds, Ipswich and Bath, McCarthy’s patience paid off at Reading.

After number one Adam Federici failed to impress, McCarthy was deployed and was soon being touted as an England hopeful.

He made 14 Premier League appearances in 2012/13 as Reading were relegated from the Premier League. 

But it was the following second-tier campaign in 2013/14 that McCarthy became undisputed first-choice at the Madejski Stadium, playing 44 matches that term.

McCarthy had impressed former Saints manager Harry Redknapp and in August 2014, the then QPR boss brought him to Loftus Road in a deal worth up to £6m.

On his arrival, Redknapp said: “I think he’s got the potential to be a future England goalkeeper one day.”

But the QPR move was far from a successful and McCarthy made just five appearances in all competitions and failed to dethrone Green as first-choice as The Rs were relegated.

Now 25 years old, McCarthy went searching for first team football at Crystal Palace. A £3.5m move happened in July 2015.

He started the first six Premier League games of the 2015/16 term, but a string of errors saw Hennessey establish himself as first pick at Selhurst Park and McCarthy played just one more top-flight match that term.

Following this, McCarthy was brought in as back-up to Forster at Saints in a £2m deal in August 2016.

He kept clean-sheets in his only two appearances in 2016/17 – in League Cup victories over former club Palace and Sunderland at St Mary’s.

But aside from that McCarthy, until December 30, 2017, has played an arduous waiting game, virtually since leaving Reading in 2014.

Now he’s first choice at Saints, however, he showing little sign of surrendering the gloves back to Forster.

Saints have lost twice in his ten matches in all competitions since his promotion to number one.

McCarthy, who has three England Under-21s caps, has previously had two senior Three Lions call ups, but never played.

In May 2013 and September 2016, McCarthy was selected.

However, he is still waiting for his chance on the senior international stage, but if he is able to continue his performances for Saints, a debut might not be far away.