Take it from a goalkeeper who knows. Breaking through at Manchester United is not easy.
An interview with Sam Johnstone has been released by West Bromwich Albion’s website.
In it the former United youngster talked about his spell at Old Trafford, and why he knew he was up against it to ever establish himself at the club.
Johnstone’s comments serve to highlight what an achievement it would be for academy talent Dean Henderson to eventually become United’s number one.
He said: “It had been my dream to play for United since I was a boy but I had to accept that in order to further my career I needed to find first-team football. I still felt there would be clubs that would want me.
“No-one makes it through the youth system to become their keeper, Gary Walsh might be the last one to come through at United. I always wanted to play on loan because I knew I wasn’t going to be their No.1, even though that was my dream.”
Johnstone suffered from bad timing
Johnstone was the goalkeeper in United’s FA Youth Cup winning side in 2011. The very same summer, United signed David de Gea.
The timing always left Johnstone up against it and it sounds like he knew it.
He hung on as long as possible, only finally leaving Old Trafford in 2018 after 10 loan spells at seven different clubs.
Now 26, Johnstone is now a regular at West Brom and is hoping to win promotion to the Premier League. They currently sit second in the Championship at the break.
Dean Henderson’s timing is more fortunate
Henderson is only three years younger than Johnstone and is already on his fifth loan spell at his fourth club.
The big difference for him is that in both 2019 and 2020 De Gea is finally showing cracks in his game and looks to slowly be on a downward trajectory.
This is giving Henderson belief that he can usurp him, and he is playing with confidence, like he believes it.
He is performing at a level Johnstone is still aspiring to, flying at Premier League level.
Johnstone said ‘No-one makes it’ about United’s young goalkeepers progressing to the first team. The last 30 years says he is right.
Henderson is in a great position to be the one to upset that pattern, even if it is not for a year or so.
When it does happen, Johnstone’s comments underline just what a big achievement it will be.
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