Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce might have choked on his morning coffee when reports in The Sun emerged suggesting that he could lose star goalkeeper Sam Johnstone to a bitter rival in the January transfer window.
Bruce is determined to keep Johnstone at Villa Park long term by turning his loan move from Manchester United permanent in the New Year. But the report claimed that Villa were facing competition from none other than West Brom.
It is understood that The Baggies are plotting a £5 million bid for the 24-year-old while United have the power to recall him from his loan spell in the Midlands midway through the season.
Though it appears that, if Johnstone has his own way, he will not be giving up his gloves at Villa halfway through a promising campaign.
“At the moment the situation is I am here, playing games,” Johnstone, who moved to Villa initially in January before extending his spell into this season, told the Express and Star.
“That is it for now. Getting promoted is the main objective. Hopefully it happens and I can be part of it.”
As it stands, Villa are fourth in the table and five points behind Cardiff City in the second automatic promotion position. So with Bruce’s high-flyers harbouring genuine hopes of returning to the Premier League next season, it makes little sense for Johnstone to want to depart now and sit on the bench behind Ben Foster at The Hawthorns.
The worry for Aston Villa fans, however, is that a decision may be out of Johnstone’s hands with United seemingly willing to exercise their recall option.
With finances tight, it is uncertain whether or not Villa could afford to match West Brom’s £4 million bid in January.