Sam Johnstone explains why he left Man Utd as he follows Marcus Rashford’s path

English football's busiest goalkeeper somehow found the time to save more shots than anyone else after organising 6,000 meals for kids in 61 schools across Birmingham.

When he was not tipping Harry Maguire's header on to the post in the dying seconds against Manchester United, Sam Johnstone was dipping his hand in his pocket – donating £700 in the whip-round for a van driver delivering key workers' meals whose vehicle was destroyed by fire.

And when football was suspended last year, Johnstone warmed up for promotion by paying for meals and drinks to be delivered to NHS and care home staff in Preston, his home town.

“I'd never really done anything like that before,” said Johnstone. “But I'm in a privileged position and people out there are struggling.

“There's a lot of footballers out there doing their bit for good causes. We're not the bad guys, there are people a lot richer than us who could help more.

“Look at what Marcus Rashford has done. It's nice to help, and football has shown a little bit of care goes a long way.”

If England caps were awarded for charitable feats, Johnstone would be in the squad already.

But if he's not in the frame now, Gareth Southgate is looking at the wrong pictures in the art gallery.

Johnstone's last-gasp save to deny United – where he spent 15 years on the books as man and boy without making a single first-team appearance – made you believe a man can fly.

“Obviously I know a few of the staff, and afterwards they were giving me grief,” he laughed. “But stopping shots and headers is what I'm there for.”

West Brom's desperate struggle to find a foothold in the quicksand should not impair Johnstone's England claims.

He belongs in the same bracket as Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope and Dean Henderson, and the Baggies' defensive record – only Wigan and Swindon have conceded more goals in all four divisions – can't be laid at his door alone.

A rare clean sheet for Albion's 10 men at Burnley gave them fresh hope of the Great Escape 2.0 as a sequel to Bryan Robson's class of 2005.

But the margin for error, starting with this weekend's home date with Brighton, is now painfully narrow.

“Everyone knows I've been busy and there is a stat which says I've made the most saves in the Premier League this season,” said Johnstone, 27.

“It sounds daft, because I hate losing football matches, but I'm enjoying the test of being in the Premier League and making saves to deny some of the world's best players.

“But being busy is a tough one: I do enjoy it, you're in goal to make saves – that's my job – and I want to help the team.

“We should have won at Burnley. That's probably the quietest game I've had since we were promoted, but it was a clean sheet, something to build on and, yeah, Brighton is a massive game.”

Football behind closed doors means Johnstone's parents have yet to watch their son in person as a Premier League player.

His father, Glenn, was also a keeper at Preston and Morecambe while his mum worked by day among office staff at a prison and by night as a mobile hairdresser while his career took root.

He said: “It's a bit mad – I've served my time on loan in League One and the Championship, played a lot of games, won promotion a couple of times and come close to promotion a few times as well.

“And when you finally reach the Premier League, you're gutted because nobody is allowed to see it – my family have all been behind the goal with the away fans when I've been out on loan, and I feel for them.

“They made the sacrifices for me from 10 years old upwards, and it will be a proud moment for them when they get to see me play on the biggest stage. Hopefully they won't have to wait too much longer.

“Of course leaving United was a tough call, but when you've done your loans, banked the experience and David De Gea is still there at No.1 every time you return, you can't wait around forever.

“You get the taste for playing every week and when you get to a certain age, you want more than to go training every day hoping your chance will come but wondering if it will materialise.

“Deep down I knew I wasn't going to play for Manchester United and I had to go down a different route.

“It felt crazy to sign for West Brom in the sense that I was becoming somebody else's player, but I'm loving it here. I've already played more than 100 games for the club and it feels like home.”

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