As we edge ever closer to the January transfer window, the future of West Bromwich Albion number one and England international Sam Johnstone will come further into focus.
Save for the very first game of the season down at Bournemouth, when his immediate future was still uncertain, Johnstone has gone on to feature in every single league since under Valerien Ismael.
All the while, Johnstone’s awkward contract status has been hanging over him, and the club.
He is now well into the final year of his four-year deal, which he signed when he made the move to The Hawthorns from Manchester United in the summer of 2018 and, despite playing Premier League football and representing his country in that time, his agreement has been allowed to run down to the final six months.
Albion and Johnstone’s camp were in contact about fresh terms, but they’ve been put on the back-burner for now and no new deal would appear to be imminent.
It’s led to speculation surrounding his future, in the event that Albion look for a buyer in January to avoid losing him for nothing. Tottenham, West Ham, Leeds, Southampton and Newcastle have all been credited with links in recent weeks and months, after Arsenal opted for his international colleague Aaron Ramsdale in the summer.
All the while, though, Johnstone’s head is firmly screwed on and fully focused on the Baggies’ promotion push, which has hit the buffers somewhat recently. That’s what Ismael has indicated, though Albion will likely have a decision to make in the window.
“There’s nothing [by way of a contract update]. We’re all focused at the minute to get back on the winning way, and we’re all focused and working very hard to get what we want,” Ismael explained. “He’s completely committed to the team, to the club, he’s a very important player for us. He’s a great guy, very focused, he plays at a high level.
“He’s very professional and has a desire to be successful. Next year is the World Cup, so it’s at the minute a win win situation. For Sam, it’s about more than running down a contract, it’s more about being able to play at that level for next year, to be a part of that squad who goes to the World Cup.
“Our part is to help him stay on that level and for sure to play at the highest level we can, for that we need to put in the effort.”
You only have to watch the astonishing double save that Johnstone pulled off at Blackpool, to keep Albion’s clean sheet in tact and ensure they left with a point, recently.
Johnstone has had the odd shaky moment this season, as many a goalkeeper does, but – fresh from sweeping the board at the club’s end of season awards last term – he’s kept them in games on a number of occasions, too.
“He’s top quality, he’s a international player,” Ismael added. “He plays at a high level, concentration and what I like about Sam, and this is his top quality, is that if a mistake happens, or if something goes wrong, he’s prepared for the next situation.
“This is top quality. He’s a top player.”Internet Explorer Channel Network