When it comes to squad building, few clubs in the Premier League take a more domestic-oriented approach than Crystal Palace. Despite being part of a Premier League that is awash with money, the Eagles have long had the ambition of developing a squad as opposed to just buying one like a FIFA career save. This has paid off recently, with a collection of exciting young talent making their mark this season and hopefully next. However, veterans are still needed to keep the squad well-balanced.
Goalkeeper is one area where the club are believed to be looking for a new addition to the squad. The ageing Vicente Guiata needs someone to keep him in check, while the club needs a proper first-choice next season. One name that seemed somewhat outlandish until recently was Sam Johnstone. The West Bromwich Albion keeper was believed to be on his way to London – but the North part, not South.
Instead, it looks like the decision of Tottenham Hotspur to push for England stopper Fraser Forster has changed plans. Johnstone will no longer be part of the plan for Antonio Conte, with the experienced Southampton keeper getting the call instead. This has opened up a path for Crystal Palace to land one of the best shot stoppers in the second tier.
Given that he is on a free contract, it will represent outstanding business for the club if they can pull it off. Johnstone, 29, made clear he wanted to leave the Baggies after failure to get promoted meant he would be staying in the second division. Now, it looks like the Eagles will be able to pull clear of rivals and make a clear attempt at landing one of the better English keepers around at this present time.
Senior caps more likely while at Palace?
In the past, playing for Crystal Palace was unlikely to make an England international. The club was simply seen as too out of the way for major international talent. The last decade, though, has seen this change entirely. Not since the days of Ian Wright has the club had so many good players hanging around, and so many internationals. Johnstone, who has three caps so far, could be looking at adding a few more.
While the form of Jordan Pickford has meant that most other English keepers are waiting, Palace see Johnstone as someone who could take the No. 1 shirt himself. Competition in the form of Dean Henderson and Nick Pope exist, but the WBA keeper is seen as someone who could develop even more as he reaches his 30s.
The Eagles have been keeping a long-term eye on Johnstone, especially when he first departed Old Trafford as a 24-year-old. Now, the club looks keen to land the player for the first time and bring in an experienced, talented, and modern goalkeeper.
There is optimism that things can get better with Palace signing players like Johnstone. This was one that felt like it would not be doable with Spurs hanging around; now, the Eagles can swoop in.