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      Sam Johnstone on life as a Premier League & England goalkeeper


      Sam Johnstone is flying this season – and not just across his goal-line.

      His call-up for the fourth England squad running – the goalkeeper preserved his record of never having been beaten for the Three Lions last month, with four clean sheets in four caps – could scarcely have been in doubt.

      For not only has Johnstone signed a new contract with the club, he has also kept a Premier League-high five clean sheets so far this term (sitting joint top with Nick Pope).

      What's more, his current clean sheets to top-flight appearances ratio (8 out of 21) is the best of any Crystal Palace goalkeeper in history (as initially highlighted by @SoCpfc).

      Speaking to David Seaman’s podcast Seaman Says last week, over the course of an insightful hour, Johnstone delved into the details which define his game – week in, week out.

      From his method of pass selection, to how he maintains his goalkeeper gloves, here are just a selection of Sam Johnstone’s insights from the in-depth chat…

      Johnstone on choosing where to kick...

      “I always think about where the ball is going to go next.

      "If I pass it to a centre-half, has he got another pass on, or is he just going to put it back to me, or boot it long? It’s a tough one.

      “Playing out from the back, everyone has to be on the same page, and it’s tough, but also good at the same time.

      “Teams are able to adapt now – we do, anyway. At Burnley, the first goal-kick we played short, they pressed… so we went long for the rest of the game.

      “[The Palace defenders] are brilliant. They’re very good. Marc Guéhi’s only 23-years-old and he’s unbelievable. He’s mature, a top player, and can do both – can play with the ball at his feet, and go long. His composure’s unbelievable. The same with [Joachim] Andersen on the other side.

      “It’s great to play behind them.”

      Johnstone on learning how to ‘play out from the back’…

      “Even growing up at Manchester United, we [goalkeepers] weren’t coached like that, but we did join in a lot of possession stuff, especially when I became scholar with Paul McGuiness as youth team manager. He got us involved with the boxes, the rondos that the team do, your possession drills and things like that.

      “That was the first time I got into passing drills, but then on a game day, you wouldn’t play out from the back, you’d kick it long, even until I was 25. I moved to West Brom, and Graeme Jones came in as assistant manager with Darren Moore, and he just wanted us to play total football!

      “The way the game’s gone now, it’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve had: to change to that new way of playing around and having to do that… then having to do it on a Saturday while trying to win, and keep the ball out of the net, with 25,000 people watching...

      "I hadn’t done it before, so doing it in training, and then on a Saturday…!”

      Johnstone on his goalkeeper gloves…

      “I like to use my gloves for three or four games. I won’t train in them – I’ll probably train twice in them, get them ready for the first game, and then that’s it: I’ll have a training pair and a game pair, and that game pair will last me probably three games because of wear and tear.

      “I wear gloves probably twice before I wear them in a game. I’ll have a warm-up pair that I warm up in, then when I go in I’ll have a match pair ready and I’ll change gloves. I’ll always clean them the night before, and after every training session. I have the maddest [obsession] about all that!

      “I carry them – I take them to the game, I’ll take them to away games. No chance [I’ll leave them with the kit staff]! When I was younger the goalie coach was like: ‘You need to look after your gloves, because if you turn up to a game and your kitman’s forgot them, what are you going to do?’

      “With boots there’s someone in your team with the same size, but with gloves, if you’ve not got them…”

      Johnstone on watching his and other teams’ games…

      “I’ll put Match of the Day on. Usually it’s recorded and I’ll watch the games in the background. I won’t sit or analyse it, I’ll just fast forward through it. If there are games on, I’ll probably have them on in the background, and watching them while looking after two kids!

      “I always watch my clips. I enjoy watching them, I’ve got training videos on my iPad. What you feel in goal and what you see watching on video are two different things.

      “I really enjoy watching my own clips and seeing if there was something else on you didn’t see at the time. It happens so quick.”

      Johnstone on learning curves and standards off the pitch…

      “I never made one competitive appearance for Manchester United, and I don’t dwell on it.

      “I left, and I’ve played for England and in the Premier League by leaving. To grow up at a club like that, with the facilities, the standards set every day on and off the pitch… at top clubs, what you do off the pitch is as important as on the pitch, so from going on trips abroad at 12-years-old…

      “You’re smart, you’re respectful to people, all of that stuff is drilled into you from that age, at home and at the club. I was so lucky to grow up in a place like that, but you get to an age where you know you’re not going to play in the first-team.

      “David de Gea is two years older than me and came in at [Manchester United at] 19 or 20. My thought process then was ‘go on loan, get those games’ – there was a lot of learning in those spells, but you could go back to Man United, then go out, get that experience, come back, smash it with training and the quality, back on loan, learn something else, back on loan, more games, more learning curves…

      “I had all my loans. Each year I got higher, a bit of a bigger club, more pressure. I went to my hometown Preston and got promoted and played at Wembley with them, which was another pressure!

      “All these experiences, when you look back on them… playing at Wembley with Preston, and then a year or two later at Wembley with Aston Villa, and then the next year playing at Wembley with England… those experiences have come together… I made the step to leave [Manchester United] at 25 and I didn’t regret it.

      “I have high standards every day, every game, and I’ve stuck by that. It’s not to prove a point to them.”

      Johnstone on playing under Roy Hodgson…

      “He’s great. He is on the pitch every day taking the sessions. He doesn’t let other people take it and sit back – he is bang at it every day, and if you’re not on it, he’ll tell you straight and get the lads going without ranting and raving.

      “Some of the stuff he says in meetings is just great. He talks, and is just inspiring… He’s also adapted. He is brilliant, on the pitch, every day, at it, getting the lads at it, not letting the standards drop and if they do, he’s on you.

      “He’s really proud… I played at the back end of last season, after not playing so much, and got back into the England squad in the summer, and he was just so proud. It was literally like he was a family member with how proud he was – and not just of me, but all three of us: me, Marc and Ebere [Eze].

      “Roy was asking when we came back ‘how was it? How long were you at St George’s? When you came back, what did you do?’ and was really, really interested. And it wasn’t just that one trip, it’s every trip you go on – as soon as you come back, he's got a smile on his face and the first thing he asks you is ‘how was it?’

      “He was so happy and proud for us to go, and then wanted to know what you got up to when you were there. He is literally just a great person.”

      Johnstone on being the second-best goalkeeper for Fantasy Premier League points…

      “I am the most boring person away from football ever! I don’t play [FPL or] PlayStation…

      “We were going up to Burnley [last week] and some of the lads said: ‘I might put you in [my team] this week’…. I said: ‘no chance, if you’ve not got me in already… you’re either in or out!’

      “I said ‘If I’m not in already, leave me out’!”

      Johnstone on facing criticism as a goalkeeper...

      (Speaking to The Guardian)

      “To go and stand in the goal and see what’s in front of you, I think you feel lonely. There should probably be more ex-keepers commentating because they’ve been there and done it. The outfield commentators are great and know the game well but they’ve not stood in goal and had shots at them.

      “You might not see it until the last minute because there’s 10 bodies in front of you. The speed now of the balls, you have to make split decisions in a second with what you’re going to do. They shouldn’t be beaten at their near post – that’s always one. But if someone’s hitting it from eight yards away at 70 or 80 miles an hour and they go for the near post it happens so fast.

      “You need to work out where the ball’s going and sometimes it’s past you before you can. If someone cuts it on the edge of the box and puts it back inside it’s not really near post. People say: ‘He should have caught that, he shouldn’t have punched it, he should have come for the cross, he shouldn’t have come for the cross …’ People always pick at stuff. It’s easy to say it rather than experience it.”

      “Hours and hours and hours go into it [learning to be a goalkeeper]. Daily, weekly, for the past 20 years. And you’re still learning. I don’t think you can ever really complete it. There’s always something you need to work on.”