West Brom boss Valerien Ismael believes Sam Johnstone will remain at the club for the remainder of this campaign.
A host of Premier League clubs have been linked with the England international this January. The ‘keeper has looked solid all season for Albion, and is out of contract in the summer. However, Ismael insists he doesn’t expect to see his star man on the move next month.
Speaking ahead of their game against Reading, Ismael said: “We definitely don’t want to lose the best player in the squad.
“For our purpose and what we want to achieve, Sammy is a massive part of our project regardless his contract situation and is a big part of my thoughts.”
When asked if he expects Johnstone to still be at the club in February, Ismael added: “Yes, we are planning for that.”
Albion are believed to have opened talks with the 28-year-old regarding a new contract with the club.
However, if no deal can be arranged the ‘keeper will be available for free in the summer.
West Ham and Southampton are currently favourites to land the England shot-stopper, with Tottenham and Newcastle also interested.
Johnstone has kept nine clean sheets already this season, and has played a vital role in keeping West Brom near the top.
Pundit claims Ismael is playing mind games
Former striker Kevin Phillips believes Ismael is playing mind games following his recent comments.
As quoted by the Express & Star, Ismael said that being third in the Championship is possibly the “best position” to be in right now.
But Phillips claims the comments aren’t as straightforward as it may seem.
Speaking to West Brom News, he said: “Having been in this situation myself, I know why he’s saying it, it’s to put pressure on and play mind games on the teams in front of him. I wouldn’t disagree with him.
“Sometimes when you’re up there at the top, you’re there to be shot at and people want to beat you. But if you’re hanging around where West Brom are at the moment, six or seven points off the top with a lot of games to play, the pressure’s not really on from the outside.”