HLTCO podcaster Dan Cook is “not 100%” convinced that Sam Johnstone will be a “guaranteed starter” at Crystal Palace next season.
The 29-year-old has proven a consistent performer for West Brom ever since arriving at The Hawthorns back in 2018, but the club recently confirmed that the shot-stopper wouldn’t be putting pen to paper on a new deal upon the expiration of his contract, meaning that he was free to negotiate with any interested parties.
With interest from Tottenham Hotspur and former club Manchester United also reportedly interested in his services, it seems the Eagles have won the race for his signature, with the 29-year-old agreeing a four-year deal and becoming Patrick Vieira’s first summer acquisition.
The Preston-born goalkeeper holds valuable top-level experience, featuring in 37 Premier League games for the Baggies, whilst also picking up three England caps – and is therefore a welcome addition to Vieira’s impressively built squad.
However, Cook doesn’t believe Vicente Guaita’s time as Palace’s No 1 is over, and that the former Manchester United goalkeeper has a “battle” on his hands to claim a starting place.
Speaking on the HLTCO Podcast, he said: “I’m not 100% sure that Sam Johnstone is the guaranteed first-team starter for us. Of course, Vicente Guaita is.
“Despite his advancing years, he’s still very much a capable and handy Premier League goalkeeper. So, I’m sure across pre-season, there will be a real battle on between the Spaniard and Sam Johnstone for that No 1 place, but Sam Johnstone will, I’m sure, back himself to win that battle.”
TIF Thoughts on Johnstone…
With second-choice goalkeeper Jack Butland likely to be heading for the Selhurst Park exit door, Vieira will have wanted to bring someone in who can really challenge Vicente Guaita for that No 1 jersey, and Johnstone is the perfect man to do just that.
Whether he manages to pip the Spaniard to a place in the starting XI next term remains to be seen, but the three-time England international certainly knows what it takes to be a Premier League goalkeeper.
He has got a great record in goal, having kept a total of 15 clean sheets in 36 Championship appearances for West Brom last season, and already has plenty of top-flight experience under his belt, having once been dubbed ‘one of the best‘ by Sam Allardyce after a 1-1 draw at Liverpool.
Even if the 6ft 3in netminder doesn’t force Guaita out, the Spaniard won’t be at the south London club forever, so Johnstone has more than enough time to stake his claim as a regular in Vieira’s side over the coming seasons.
However, with the World Cup on the horizon, he will have to prove himself quickly at Selhurst Park if he is to make Gareth Southgate’s squad this winter.