Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce has heaped praise on Sam Johnstone following his side’s 2-0 win over Bristol City on Tuesday night.
Johnstone, who arrived at Villa Park over the January transfer period on loan, has been inundated by a barrage of calumny from supporters following a run hallmarked by just one win from 11 games.
The 23-year-old finally received his reward against Bristol, claiming his second clean sheet for the Championship side on what was his ninth appearance.
And Bruce, speaking after the game, was quick to acknowledge the effort exhibited by Johnstone over the last few weeks.
“He’s worked so hard over the past few weeks so I’m pleased for him. He’s an exceptional young goalkeeper,” he said.
“We are going to keep working hard and will keep improving.”
It should be noted that life in the Championship is hard. Really hard. Especially if you happen to be a young, inexperienced keeper. This is Johnstone’s first proper run of games at senior level, conveniently taking place at a club experiencing a rather abrupt and indeed unstoppable slide into oblivion, their bubble now well and truly popped after years of flirting with relegation in the Premier League.
Johnstone may not enjoy many clean sheets this season; nor will be garner much praise from a growingly irate Villa fanbase. He will, however, come back to Old Trafford with thicker skin after experiencing life at a club going through the motions.