Louis van Gaal hasn’t been the most popular man over the last few weeks and even more so over after the claims of him blocking a loan move for Manchester United’s 22-year-old Sam Johnstone in this summer’s transfer window. Rebecca Coles looks at the latest victim in English goalkeeping.
Along with the recent David de Gea saga, Víctor Valdés’ failed move to Besiktas and Sergio Romero remaining at the club, Sam Johnstone now sits as the fourth choice goalkeeper at Old Trafford. In other words, he unfortunately doesn’t stand a chance and is being held back from further developing his career.
The fact that England is still lacking top goalkeepers is old news and with that said, you would have hoped that we would be doing more to protect and support our young goalkeepers by now. However, this doesn’t seem to be on the list of concerns for Louis van Gaal and Manchester United.
Johnstone has completed five loan spells so far. He has been shipped out to Scunthorpe United, Walsall, Yeovil Town, Doncaster Rovers, and Preston North End; with the latter being his most impressive spell to date. He helped the Lilywhites achieve promotion to the Championship after nine failed attempts, keeping a clean sheet as they comfortably beat Swindon Town 4-0 in the play-off final.
When given the chance, young English goalkeepers have shown their talent. Alex McCarthy went from wearing the No. 1 shirt at Reading to riding the bench at Queens Park Ranger last season. The 25-year-old was expected to be an exciting prospect when he signed for QPR as he was set to soon overtake Robert Green, who then had one of his best seasons to date. McCarthy spent a whole season watching and not playing. However, he was not forgotten in the summer transfer window. He made his escape to Crystal Palace and has since been on impressive form this season.
Jack Butland spent the last few seasons at Stoke being Asmir Begović’s backup. Yet when Begović jumped ship to join Chelsea, it was clear that this was the opportunity Butland needed to shine. Despite Stoke not having the greatest start as a whole, Butland has made all five appearances and has thus far been the star man in various games including against Arsenal last weekend.
Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is just 21-years-old and making his mark. Currently on loan at Preston, Pickford has been previously loaned to Darlington, Alfreton Town, Burton Albion, Carlisle United and Bradford City. In a recent interview, Dick Advocaat admitted that Sunderland are conscious of the need for a top prospect like Pickford to be playing competitive football. This is just what young English talent need to be hearing from a Head Coach.
While the progression of keepers like Pickford, Butland and McCarthy after they have been pushed forward and allowed to flourish has been a breath of fresh air, a dark cloud remains over the career of Sam Johnstone and whether or not he will be kept back for the remainder of this season, stuck playing fourth understudy at United. His situation only brings back the same old regrettable alarm bells concerning the future of English goalkeeping talent.
Is Louis van Gaal right to keep Sam Johnstone at Manchester United? Should there be rules in place for young domestic talent that, unless required, should be on-loan or even sold to another club offering first team football?
Read more from Rebecca Coles here