Sam and Jordan are on an even keel, says PNE boss

Sam Johnstone is back at PNE
Sam Johnstone is back at PNE
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Sam Johnstone will pull on the Preston North End goalkeeper jersey for the first time since Wembley when the Lilywhites host Rotherham on Saturday.

PNE made their move to bring the 22-year-old back to Deepdale after Sunderland recalled Jordan Pickford.

Johnstone has joined on a 28-day loan from Manchester United, this familiar territory after spending the second-half of last season here.

The short-term deal will buy North End some time as they look to sort out the goalkeeper position longer term.

It could be that they get Johnstone for the rest of the season or even buy him during the transfer window.

Pickford might yet come back, with PNE understood to have first refusal on him if he is loaned out again.

For the time being, Black Cats boss Sam Allardyce wants to run the rule over a keeper who he has not yet had the chance to work with.

Preston boss Simon Grayson was sad to say farewell to Pickford but is delighted that Johnstone has come back as the replacement.

Grayson told the Evening Post: “I think Jordan and Sam are on an even keel.

“Sam was fantastic for us in the second-half of last season and Jordan likewise in the first-half of this one.

“With Sam, it is not as if we are bringing a goalkeeper into the club who doesn’t know any of the players or how we work.

“He will slot back into where he left off after Wembley.”

Things have come full circle with the goalkeepers, Grayson having tried to sign Johnstone in the summer.

When his pursuit hit a brick wall because of the uncertainty surrounding David de Gea’s future, he turned to Pickford.

Grayson knew he was getting an up-and-coming keeper in Pickford but admits he exceeded expectations during his 27 games for PNE in which he kept 13 clean sheets.

“I think everyone would admit that was the case with Jordan,” said Grayson.

“We knew we were getting a good goalkeeper who had a bit of experience behind him but had not played in the Championship.

“Jordan grew into it, was confident in his ability and worked well with Alan Kelly.

“I think the key has been Kells working with the keepers and improving them.

“He did that with Sam and before that with Declan Rudd who is now playing in the Premier League with Norwich.

“What happens with Jordan now, we will wait and see.

“Sam Allardyce wants to have a look at him. He has changed his first-choice keeper recently.

“He might play Jordan in the FA Cup or he could have him on the bench – I’m only second-guessing what Sam is going to do.

“It might be that he thinks he can cope with the other keepers and still let Jordan develop his career by going out on loan again.

“We are talking ifs, buts and maybes and we’re just pleased to have had Jordan here for the time we did, we thank Sunderland for that.”