If there was one Tottenham Hotspur transfer target that we all thought was completely in the bag even well before the transfer window opened, it was the backup goalkeeper position. Spurs had seemingly identified West Brom soon-to-be-free-agent Sam Johnstone as the homegrown English goalkeeper to come in and replace the on-loan Pierluigi Gollini as Hugo Lloris’ primary backup and eventual successor.
According to the Athletic (£), not so. David Ornstein and Dan Sheldon write this morning that Spurs have made Southampton keeper Fraser Forster, and NOT Johnstone, their primary target for that position. Like Johnstone, Forster’s contract expires at the end of the season and he’s leaving his club on a free transfer.
If this is true, and since it’s Ornstein there’s no reason to think that it isn’t, it’s a head-scratching decision and kind of a disappointing one. Forster is 34 years old — just one year younger than Hugo — and there isn’t anything that especially suggests that he’s a better candidate between the sticks than Johnstone would be. Age is an important factor here, too — while keepers can successfully play into their 40s, it makes a lot of sense to snap up a younger player to serve as deputy.
We don’t know what happened. Maybe Spurs preferred the Premier League experience of Forster to Johnstone, or maybe Johnstone had a number of opportunities and decided one one that isn’t Tottenham. Ultimately it doesn’t change TOO much about Tottenham’s team next season — Forster is still a free, homegrown backup keeper that hopefully won’t play that much and who is likely not going to command big wages.
The other potential option is that Spurs are now targeting both Forster AND Johnstone, with Johnstone coming in to be the third keeper. That might be a little harsh on current third keeper and academy grad Brandon Austin, unless they’re considering sending him out on loan next season for more experience.
So we don’t know yet. It’s just weird, that’s all.