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Sam Johnstone in-depth interview: No.1 goalkeeper on form of his life, the run-in and his future

Villa v Wolves: Trinity Road Upper opens for derby clash
Sam Johnstone in-depth interview: No.1 goalkeeper on form of his life, the run-in and his future

Sam Johnstone is in the form of his life. His seventh crack at a loan move from parent club Manchester United is working brilliantly – and he's happier than ever before. 

That, in part, is down to his contribution this season. He has played more games this year than any other in his career, and is the only player alongside James Chester in the Aston Villa squad to have featured for every minute of the Sky Bet Championship campaign.

Naturally, performances have coincided with that continuity between the sticks.

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Brentford and Millwall at home, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United away – whether they've been frustrating draws or brilliant wins, Johnstone's displays have ensured we've taken something from each game.

Those fixtures, of course, are just a few examples where his saves have proved match-winning or ensured we went unbeaten. There have been countless others aside.

His secret? Consistency. Consistency. Consistency.

"I really began to get into the groove of playing for Villa towards the back end of last season, and that carried over into this season," he reflected.

"I came in and endured a tough start and losing games to putting in good performances and winning plenty of matches.

"For me it's always been about being somewhere where you can play football and have that continuity, which is great.

"Performance wise, it's the best season of my career. It's the most amount of games I've played in a season, and the only campaign in which I'll have played every game if I keep going how I am.

"That's new for me. And I have to thank Gary Walsh and the other goalkeepers here for helping me every single day and preparing me to go out on a Saturday and perform.

"There's a lot of people in the background helping out all the lads, who deserve a lot of credit."

JohnstoneInterview1Life away from football has also helped his rise to becoming one of the best goalkeepers in the Championship and an individual who would have no problem operating at Premier League level.

His 15 months in the Midlands is the longest he's ever been away from Manchester, but he's been firmly settled in this part of the country for some time.

He uses days off in the week to head back north on the M6 to visit family and friends, but is loving life six days a week at Aston Villa.

That brings us to the subject of his future, which is on the lips of every supporter of the club around the world. Even Prince William's first utterance to Steve Bruce at the royal visit back in November was a plea to sign him up permanently.

"I enjoy it here. I love playing football here and training every day," Johnstone added.

"But the truth is I've not spoken to anyone about it as of yet. My plan is to finish off this season and then see what Manchester United and Aston Villa's position is on the matter.

"I want to keep playing football. I'm enjoying the number of games I'm playing.

"The Premier League is where you want to be week in, week out. I'd love it for this club to be a part of that next season and for many years to come. Hopefully we can all keep performing at a good level for the rest of the season and make that happen.

"At the moment, though, it's very much a case of I've not spoken to anyone at United and we'll see in the summer. But I do want to carry on playing as much football as possible.

"I want that continuity. I had it from the end of last season into this season and I don't want it to stop now. I want it to continue into the next campaign. That's where I stand on it."

JohnstoneInterview4Should fate lead him down a different path this summer, there can be no underestimating the role the club has played in Johnstone's development as a player, or him enjoying life.

He has made eternal friends around the place – and up to 4,500 of them on away days.

He knows a top travelling army of support when he sees one. Our fans will stay with him for the rest of his days.

"If it wasn't to be, I'd have a great lasting memory of Aston Villa.

"The whole experience of living away from home, training at Bodymoor Heath every day and playing for our fans has been special. I'll never forget it and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity.

"The fan element, in particular. The amount we take to away games is crazy – we sell out every time. I really feel their presence when I'm in net at their end.

"They really stick in your mind and the lads here always talk about how good they are. So we all really appreciate it.

"We'll see what happens, but I can't play down how much I've loved being here. It's been a fantastic experience."

JohnstoneNumberOneMainWebRealistically, promotion will have a huge say in whether Johnstone remains in claret and blue beyond the current campaign.

Achieving that feat is something he has more of a say in, and with just the 12 games remaining before the regular season finishes, he's primed to give everything to the cause over the next two months.

"There's only 12 games left now, which I can't quite believe. It's flown by. There's still a lot that can happen.

"We need Cardiff to drop points, and we've got to play them at home. Hopefully we stay in the mix and end up where we need to when it matters.

"It's so close, no one knows what's going to happen.

"We go into the weekend off the back of what, in a way, was our best result of the season at Hillsborough.

"Recovering from 2-1 down, on the back of losing at Fulham and drawing with Preston – we showed real fight. We needed that win; it was important.

"We always felt we could still win the match, even with half an hour to go. We were unlucky to concede right on half-time. It was a pretty open game and we made that work in our favour.

"As soon as we got the second goal to make it 2-2, we knew we could go on and get three points.

"The way it happened, with Conor Hourihane scoring and Robert Snodgrass netting the penalty. It was an exciting comeback from where I was standing.

"It's eight wins in 10 now – that's a great run. The Fulham game was difficult to take, because our form had been so good leading up to it. But the overall picture is very good. We're pleased to have gotten back to winning ways.

"Here's to a big finish from now until May."

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Dan Connor
By @danconnor 1st March 2018