Sam Johnstone’s decision to leave Manchester United and create his own path has paid dividends, with the in-form West Brom goalkeeper looking to make sure this is the first of many England call-ups.
The 27-year-old has been in a shining light in a season to forget for the promoted Baggies, who are bound for the drop given they are 10 points adrift with just nine matches to play.
Johnstone’s performances for Sam Allardyce’s struggling side have led to a first senior England call-up, joining Dean Henderson and Nick Pope in a squad missing number one Jordan Pickford through injury.
“I was out training and came into a very good text on my phone to say I’ve been selected to be in the English squad and I was buzzing,” the West Brom goalkeeper said.
“It’s such a proud moment for me and my family to get that text and then to finally meet up with the team.
“Look, that’s the dream, isn’t it? To be called into the England set-up, into the senior team.
“I’ve worked hard, I’ve done the youth teams at England. I’ve done the loans.
“I knew I had to probably move away from Man United and create my own path, which I’ve done and then finally got in the Premier League, which then allows me to do my thing and be selected for the group and for England.
“I’m obviously delighted to be here and really proud.”
Johnstone had to keep schtum as family and friends peppered him with questions about his widely predicted call-up, which was another reward for taking the road less travelled.
Oldham, Scunthorpe, Walsall, Yeovil, Doncaster and Preston were temporary pitstops during his time at United, before impressive loan stints at Aston Villa and a permanent switch to West Brom in 2018.
Johnstone saw his progress blocked by the likes of David De Gea at Old Trafford, with the Spain goalkeeper among those to congratulate him on being selected for this month’s World Cup qualification triple-header.
“He texted me obviously when I got the call-up, saying he was happy and really proud and stuff as well,” he told beIN Sports.
“It’s really nice to hear from someone that I trained alongside for a number of years and learned a lot from.
“He said, ‘really happy for you, you deserve it – good luck, go and give it your all’.”
Former England Under-20 international Johnstone now has the chance to stake his claim for this summer’s rearranged European Championship, although he knows Pickford, Pope and Henderson are ahead of him.
“Look, I’m new into the senior squad,” he told Sky Sports.
“They are more experienced in this set-up and I’m here to work hard, to push both of them and ultimately make it, you know, difficult.
“I want to do well. I want to keep (coming back) to England so it’s up to me to do well in training and show what you can do and, hopefully, you know, it carries on.
“I’ve worked with both them the last two days – they’re both great lads, both great goalkeepers – and we push each other. It’s great competition.”
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