Transfer Talk: In-demand Johnstone can be a star for Rangers
Rangers are eying a summer upgrade between the sticks — and West Brom stopper Sam Johnstone is reportedly on their wanted list.
The Glasgow giants are in need of a long-term replacement for veteran No1 Allan McGregor, while the Baggies star will be looking to boost his England hopes in a World Cup year.
Having also been linked with Manchester United and Tottenham of late, he may prefer a move to Ibrox with regular minutes surely a priority.
Ahead of the second leg of the Gers' Europa League quarter-final with Braga tonight, we make the case for Johnstone moving north of the border.
After West Brom’s relegation to the Championship last season, no one would have been remotely surprised to see Johnstone snapped up by a Premier League club.
After all, he is already a proven goalkeeper at that level.
Indeed, Arsenal were linked with a move for the United academy graduate before ultimately signing Aaron Ramsdale from Sheffield United.
But a switch failed to materialise, with the fact that 29-year-old Johnstone would be available on a free transfer this summer likely a factor — and he has remained at The Hawthorns to see out his contract.
Yet with the Baggies well out of the Championship promotion picture, their chances of keeping hold of him this time around are as good as non-existent.
Getting his gloves dirty
Last season, West Brom finished 19th and 13 points from safety — but it could have been so much worse were it not for Johnstone, their Players' and Supporters' Player of the Year.
No Premier League goalkeeper had a busier 2020-21 campaign than the Preston native, who made 166 saves at an average of 4.49 per 90.
And Johnstone was not simply making a series of easy stops.
He directly prevented 4.4 goals (based on post-shot expected goals faced minus goals conceded), which would suggest that he was the ninth-best keeper in the Premier League last term.
A step down?
Given that Johnstone has spent the last six seasons as a regular in two of the strongest leagues in Europe, a switch to the Scottish Premiership might be seen as a step down.
But the opportunity to play European football has to be factored into the equation — something he has not experienced in his career to date.
And if Rangers go all the way and win the Europa League this term, they will qualify for the group stage of next season’s Champions League.
A dream come true
Johnstone won his first three senior England caps last year and made Gareth Southgate’s squad for Euro 2020.
Speaking after getting his first call-up, he said: "It’s such a proud moment for me and my family to get that text and then to finally meet up with the team.
"Look, that’s the dream, isn’t it? To be called into the England set-up, into the senior team.
"I’ve worked hard, I’ve done the youth teams at England. I’ve done the loans [at EFL clubs].
"I knew I had to probably move away from Man United and create my own path, which I’ve done and then finally got in the Premier League, which then allows me to do my thing and be selected… for England."
The hard work has not stopped for Johnstone, though, and it might yet earn him a seat on the plane to Qatar in November.
Qatar on the cards?
When Ramsdale dropped out of the England squad for last month’s friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast through injury, Southgate turned to Johnstone — only for him to also have to withdraw.
As things stand, it appears that the 6ft 4in stopper is fourth choice between the sticks for the Three Lions.
Even if Everton end up going down this season and no top-level outfut picks him up, there is simply no way that Jordan Pickford will not at least be in the squad if fit.
But if Burnley get relegated and Nick Pope stays put, Johnstone might just stand a chance of going to Qatar — providing he is playing regularly at his next club.