The January transfer window is nearly upon us and it looks set to be a very interesting one for West Bromwich Albion.
After a strong start under Valerien Ismael, the Baggies’ have fallen off in recent weeks and lost significant ground on the two sides battling for automatic promotion.
That’s a scrap they’ll want to drag themselves back into as they look to bounce back up to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Much of the focus of Albion fans ahead of the winter window is going to be about who they want to come in, and likely where they can get the number nine that they so clearly need, but Sam Johnstone’s future is a saga that could dominate January for the club.
The 28-year-old and West Brom’s 2020/21 Player of the Year is out of contract in the summer, so the upcoming window may represent the final chance for the West Midlands club to get any compensation for his exit.
But if they needed a reminder of just what a good value deal signing the West Brom keeper in January could represent then all they needed to do was watch last night’s game against Blackpool.
Ismael’s side had more than enough chances to win the game but Johnstone deserves more credit than anyone for the fact that they came away with a point and a clean sheet.
The England international was in supreme form at Bloomfield Road, not conceding once despite having an expected conceded goals (xCG) rating of 1.15 and making four saves.
The double save to deny first Gary Madine and then Keshi Anderson from short-range in first-half stoppage time was truly outstanding – the sort of quality you don’t usually see at Championship level.
What club do these 22 rarely-seen ex-West Brom players play at now?
And that’s because Johnstone is a Premier League quality goalkeeper and a very good, reliable one at that.
The chance to sign a player like that, who may well have their prime years ahead of them, for what will likely be a nominal fee doesn’t come around very often.
Waiting until next summer would allow other clubs the chance to pounce, which is something Spurs and West Ham really have to consider if they are indeed interested.