‘Deservedly’ – Our verdict on the West Brom hero shutting out the boo boys – Joseph Chapman
Sam Johnstone has entertained his fair share of criticism this season.
The goalkeeper has been a constant in the West Brom side that went nine matches unbeaten at the start of the campaign, although he had to wait until that ninth match for his first clean sheet.
Into his second campaign at The Hawthorns, moving to Albion from Manchester United ahead of then cash strapped rivals Aston Villa for whom he’d performed admirably for 18 months, Johnstone is still often made a scapegoat if his side don’t manage a positive result.
He’s taken plenty, but he’s also given some back. Johnstone took to social media in August to bite back at those questioning his abilities.
This is your round up of all things Albion; the one-stop shop that will keep you updated on the latest goings on at The Hawthorns and beyond.
Transfers, injuries, match-days and managers, we’ve got you covered.
We’ll be bringing the very latest on the Baggies throughout week and around the clock.
Make sure you keep yourself updated with our handy daily catch up…
The must reads…
The player ratings with Sawyers and Pereira superb – READ
Bilic reveals what he said at HT – READ
Warnock’s brilliant Jeremy Peace anecdote – READ
A couple of days later he kept Albion in the game with a smart penalty save to deny Martyn Waghorn from doubling Derby County’s lead.
There are still a number of supporters not keen on the Baggies’ number one. At 26, he still clearly has improvements to make to his game, though that isn’t unusual for a goalkeeper at such an age.
Johnstone’s double save at Elland Road on at the beginning of this month left fans, teammates and coaching staff alike in awe.
“I don’t know how he managed to save it, it was a cracking save,” said centre-back Semi Ajayi, who at the time could only watch on and hope as Patrick Bamford and then Helder Costa had shots from close range. “It was a really key point in the game – just before half-time.
“It allowed us to go in at half-time and come back out the way we did. He deserves massive credit for that save.”
More recently, Johnstone earned a man of the match performance at Middlesbrough this past weekend, when he made at least four key saves and kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 win.
Johnstone denied Paddy McNair and Britt Assombalonga and then kept out George Saville – not once, but twice.
He was deservedly cheered off, as the 1,800 travelling fans sung his name.
This isn’t to say that Johnstone ought to be immune from criticism; he made a hash of collecting a routine effort against Blackburn, and a sequence of play followed that resulted in Bradley Johnson converting.
He indeed has been caught out on occasion with his passing out from the back; even now, Albion fans shudder when they see Ajayi and Kyle Bartley on either side of the six-yard box, especially after the volume of detrimental errors that occurred in the back-line last season.
It invites pressure. Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest were among a host of sides to smell blood at The Hawthorns last season and pressed high, winning the ball up the pitch and punishing Albion. It often left Johnstone with his hands on his hips and a grimace on his face.
Those style-of-play orders are from above, though. The Baggies are still approaching games that way under Slaven Bilic, and there are still some familiar vulnerabilities that need ironing out.
Johnstone’s long kicking, though, is largely on the money; he has great success in picking out the likes of Nathan Ferguson and Darnell Furlong as they bomb forward on either flank.
His reactions are usually superb and his shot stopping can be spectacular – see the play-off semi-final second leg when Albert Adomah was about to wheel away in celebration.
“It was a very important part of the game,” Bilic said of his double save at Leeds. “Sam is that type of goalkeeper you need if you want to aim high.
Where will West Bromwich Albion finish in the 2019-20 season?
20000+ VOTES SO FAR
“We are going to need all our guys to be in top form and he is one of them. He was brilliant.”
There was a sense that the club had bought for the present and the future with the acquisition of Johnstone last summer.
Of course, he had the unenviable task of filling the boots of predecessor Ben Foster – a fan favourite and a figure whom for many is the club’s greatest ever keeper.
He’s been the subject of ironic cheers at The Hawthorns, but I’d rather focus on the rapturous applause and chants that came his way from the away end at Pride Park and the Riverside at the full-time whistle.
Fifteen months into Johnstone’s time at Albion, though, and the positives far outweigh the negatives.