Aston Villa loanee Sam Johnstone has told close friends that he is heading to the Hawthorns to sign for bitter West Midlands rivals West Brom in January, according to a report.

The Express and Star claims that although the Baggies have a firm interest in loaned-out Manchester United goalkeeper Johnstone, 24, reports that a fee has been agreed for him are wide of the mark.

TeamTalk had reported that Johnstone has a clause in his loan deal at Villa Park that would allow Man United to recall him in January in order to offload him elsewhere.

It was understood that a £4million fee was agreed between United and Albion, however the local newspaper has now claimed that is not the case.

The latest report adds that while West Brom are keen on Johnstone, Alan Pardew is prioritising strengthening his attack first and foremost.

Johnstone has been a mainstay of Aston Villa’s first team since initially arriving on loan in January 2016.

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He has played every minute of every game this season and it would no doubt be a massive blow to Steve Bruce to lose the Man United goalkeeper prematurely.

Football Insider verdict

West Brom have a very good goalkeeper in Ben Foster, but his back-up option Boaz Myhill is a train wreck waiting to happen every time he is called upon to replace the ex-Birmingham shot-stopper in the first-team. Foster is 34-years-old though and out of contract at the end of next season while Myhill is out of contract this summer, so Johnstone could be seen as a long-term solution to an inevitable problem. Johnstone leaving is a massive blow for Villa though because they don’t have any other good options to play between the sticks. Bruce may have to bring someone else in on loan due to Financial Fair Play restrictions.

In other Aston Villa news, the Villains have made an approach for this goalscoring midfielder from a high-flying English club.

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