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Southampton Linked With West Brom Keeper
Saturday, 4th Sep 2021 10:16

Saints didn't chase a new goalkeeping signing in the transfer window, it wasn't a priority because they had two with experience in the Premier League on their books, but that will change in 2022 and it seems they have a target in mind.

Saints have had to rely on the pairing of Fraser Forster and Alex McCarthy this season due to the high wages of Forster, most Saints supporters would argue that based on last season and the pre season games this summer that Forster was the better of the pair, but Ralph Hasenhuttl disagreed and selected McCarthy, this looked a mistake in the first two games of the season with the keeper being found wanting both at Everton and at St Mary's against Manchester United, although despite conceding twice he looked much better at Newcastle.

So this summer Saints had to make a calculated gamble, should they spend some of the transfer money received on a new keeper or should they persevere with the current two, it seems that the club felt that having to pay somewhere around £135 k a week in wages to two keepers who were not in the first team won out and they decided to keep the money in the bank and look at the situation in 2022.

But the big question is whether it will be the summer of 2022 or will they feel they have to act in January, that will of course depend on how McCarthy and Forster fare in the interim.

In January Forster will be in the last six months of his contract and if he is not in the first team he may feel that he can speak with Saints about terminating his contract, by then he will have little value and he himself may feel that he can afford to drop the remainder of his contract in order to get security in a long term deal away from St Mary's.

Reports from the midlands suggest that the man that Saints are monitoring is West Bromwich Albion's Sam Johnstone.

Johnstone like Forster has now entered the last year of his contract and the Baggies are desperately trying to get him to sign another, however so far he has not done so and the likelihood is he could move on in January.

This might be attractive for Saints, his fee will have dropped drastically and perhaps even there is a deal to be done with Forster going in the other direction.

But is Johnstone the man for the role at St Mary's ?

At he has certainly taken his time to reach the Premier League and indeed the England squad and his single cap for his country , he was on Manchester United's books until 2018 , but he never made an appearance at Old Trafford and spent much of his time there out on loan.

The last two years of his United career where spent on loan at then Championship Aston Villa but it would be their newly relegated near neighbours West Brom whom he would join for the 2018/19 season for a fee said to be £6.5 million.

He has been a virtual ever present in the League since, playing all 46 Championship games in his first two seasons and missing only 1 game last term as the Baggies went straight back down.

His original four year deal is still in place and if he doesn't sign a new one then January could be a crucial month.

Johnstone won't be the only keeper on Saints radar and there will also be the question of his age, he will be 29 in March 2022 and Saints rarely sign a player over 27 these days although they may make an exception for a goalkeeper.

Certainly it is a signing that could make sense for Saints, currently the two keeper are flawed for various reasons, McCarthy due to the fact he has spent much of his career as a back up keeper, rarely being first choice for a whole season and that has been the case at Saints, Forster had a confidence crisis and it won't have helped him being snubbed by Ralph after working so hard to get back into the side last season.

Johnstone has experience albeit only 1 season in the Premier League, since joining Aston Villa on loan in January 2017 he has barely missed a game for both Villa & West Brom meaning he has been a first choice for the last 4 1/2 seasons.

From a Saints perspective they seem to be a lot more focused these days on finding the right players, this is a crucial season that they need to come through still in the Premier League, slowly but surely the financial shackles are coming off as high earners who have barely played have been got off the books and 2022 will see on the of the biggest in Fraser Forster leave.

This summer has seen a mix of experience and youth come in and the youngsters all seem to have potential, the transfer strategy seem to have changed to a medium to long term view, rather than the disastrous policy of the 2016-18 era when they signed so called experienced players for just under £20 million and seemed to have lost that focus on the core values that had served them well in the past.

Johnstone would seem a natural target in January and if Lycanco and Dynel Syneu prove to be the real deal a keeper could be the last piece in the jigsaw, if Saints come through this season unscathed and early signs are good that they will, then there could be exciting times ahead.

The big question though is when do they sign that keeper, will it be January of will they wait till next summer.

Photo: Action Images

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sidsaint added 11:54 - Sep 4
West Brom could well be promoted in which case they will probably want to keep him.

Monksway added 14:25 - Sep 4
I suspect that FF wanted more money etc if he was to sign a new deal and McCarthy was cheaper and more prepared to be a no. 2 next year. As part of this offer it might be that McCarthy is given the opportunity to be in goal this year ( till Christmas). It's a shame because FF has the capacity to have a purple patch and keep clean sheets in a way that McCarthy seems able to do. Even without the mistakes McCarthy rarely makes unexpected saves.

Monksway added 14:28 - Sep 4
Either way as fans we really need to support McCarthy when he is in goal and give him as much confidence as possible.

KriSaint added 18:13 - Sep 4
Good article.
A 29-year old keeper who is in his prime and is selected for England and who wouldn't 'blast the bank'. He would only sign for a PL team where he would be expected to hit the ground running as the no. 1 keeper, and why not Saints? I don't see many other clubs better/bigger than Saints moving for Johnstone as their 'to be' preferred keeper, because the top 8 clubs are pretty covered in the goalkeeper position.

Remember how fond we became of Paul Jones and Annti Niemi, neither of whom were younger than Johnstone. Jones was 30 when he came from....... League 2! (Promoted to League 1).

I hope the idea materializes. No offence meant towards McCarthy & Forster.

YosemiteSaint added 20:14 - Sep 4
Though I'm quite pleased with how the transfer window went for us, top of my list was always a sturdy keeper and we didn't get one. Everything rests on the foundation of a good keeper. He provides the leadership our center backs need. Lacking confidence in their keeper, center backs make more mistakes. Unfortunately, McCarthy just doesn't command the box consistently or strongly, and Forster has just seemed overly awkward on the balance of performances. Hopefully we don't leak goals between now and January, and we can afford Johnstone then.

In the meantime, I'm not sure I can think of a keeper we should target in the January transfer window (perhaps because it's difficult to think of keepers beyond their role in their own sides). Does anyone have any suggestions?

underweststand added 11:03 - Sep 5
Keepers tend to develop later in their careers, and those unfortunate enough grow up in a " BIg club" with internationals in every position find that with goalies like De Gea ahead of you the chances of regular first team games are decidedly minimal.

Johnstone (like Pickford before him) played very well in sides that were later relegated, and there is a lot to be said for the old adage that " goalkeepers are only as good as the defence in front of them". Johnstone was outstanding in a number of games I saw him in last season, yet even that wasn't enough to save them.

With a contract going out next summer, he will surely be in demand but would be wise to choose a club who might make him their first choice, rather than going back to sitting on the United bench and get the occasional Cup game.

A good deal - if we can get him.

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