Manchester United will be reunited with goalkeeper Sam Johnstone tomorrow when we take on West Brom. Their no.1 joined United’s academy when he was just 10-years-old but didn’t make a first team appearance in the nine years he was at the club.
With loans to seven different clubs, he eventually made a permanent move to West Brom in a £6.5m deal in 2018. The first two seasons were spent in the Championship before they earned promotion in 2020.
Ahead of facing his former club, Johnstone has reflected on a time when he was fined by the club but then first team goalie Edwin Van der Sar paid it for him.
We had to wear thumb supports so we didn’t break our thumbs. I’d forgotten to put mine on and got hit on the end of the thumb in training. I had to go with my tail between my legs to Eric Steele, the goalkeeper coach, and tell him my thumb was swollen. So that was a fine straight away.
That was the type of place I grew up at. It wasn’t all about football, it was about growing up and being respectful. We’d shake all the coaches’ hands, schoolwork was important, behaving in digs was important. It all came before football. If you’ve not got discipline then don’t come into training until you’ve got that right. It was a great place to grow up in, I wouldn’t say strict, but you had to be respectful and disciplined.
He (Van der Sar) told me not to do it again, he was a really good guy who looked after everyone.
Rich Hartis was the goalkeeping coach when Johnstone was at the club but then went to Molde with Solskjaer in 2011. He then followed Ole to Cardiff before rejoining United in the summer of 2019. Johnstone reflected on how he felt when Hartis left.
He’s a friend as well as a former coach. He was a key part to my development. At that age, growing up at a club like United, he drilled in all the basic stuff and was on at me about what I had to do away from the training ground. It’s crazy really because at that age he always said he could see something there. He got close with my Dad and said, ‘He’s got the size, he’s still going to grow, we just need to get all the basics like footwork, handling and timing drilled into him.’
So Rich was massive for me and when he left I was quite upset, to be fair. When we went to play them at Old Trafford this season, we stood in the tunnel for about an hour after the game just talking. He knew what I had done in the games I’d played, what I needed to improve on and he still keeps an eye on what I’m doing which is nice.