England debut a big tonic for former Preston North End loan keeper Sam Johnstone
Former Preston North End loan keeper Sam Johnstone is using England’s Euro 2020 campaign as a tonic for suffering relegation at West Bromwich Albion.
The Baggies shot-stopper made his Three Lions debut in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Romania – the final warm-up game before the finals get under way later this week.
Johnstone, 28, earned his place in Gareth Southgate’s 26-man squad on the back of a fine personal campaign at the Hawthorns.
However, despite a string of good displays between the posts, he was unable to help keep West Bromwich in the Premier League as they were relegated after just one season back in the top flight.
“It was such a big disappointment for that to happen and I literally had a week off and was back with England ” said Johnstone who was born in Preston and had two loan spells at PNE while with Manchester United.
“So it takes my mind off it because I’m enjoying this moment, still training and working hard every day.”
Johnstone played in all but one league game in the season just finished.
He kept a clean sheet on his international debut and made a fine, close-range stop to keep out Andrei Ivan shortly after Marcus Rashford scored from the penalty spot for what would prove to be the winning goal.
“I’m so happy,” added Johnstone.
“I’m really proud and you do get quite emotional when the national anthem is playing and everyone’s singing.
“It’s just a proud moment for myself and my family, for everyone that’s been with me on this journey from being 10 years old.
“You know we work hard every single day and thankfully that moment (the Ivan save) came on my England debut to make that save and keep a clean sheet.
“I just tried my best to play my own game and, as a goalkeeper, wait for the ball to come to me instead of chasing it.
“I’m really happy and that save tops off a good evening.”
Nick Pope looked set to battle Jordan Pickford to be Southgate’s first-choice for the European Championship before the Burnley goalkeeper was ruled out following knee surgery.
That opened the door to Johnstone who, like Dean Henderson, now has one England cap heading into the finals.
“It is something you dream of as a kid to play for England and that’s finally happened and no one can take that away from me,” he said.
“I think it’s great to go into the tournament with a cap under my belt because of course it is something new to me.
“We all get on, we all work hard and we all support whoever is playing. It is like that with every club, the goalkeepers’ union, and it is like that here.”
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