The social media explosion of opinions, tirades, rants and uncertainty has come to the forefront after Aston Villa failed to gain promotion to the Premier League this past weekend. While every single Villa supporter is understandably upset and worried, there are still some positives to think about. Sam Johnstone did an absolutely remarkable job between the sticks for Villa for most of the season. But, it is looking more and more likely that the Manchester United loanee will not be returning to Villa Park. There are also rumours circulating that Pierluigi Gollini will not be joining Aston Villa after 18 months at Serie A side Atalanta. Multiple reports are claiming that Gollini will join Atalanta on a permanent deal somewhere in the area of a £3.5m deal. So, who will be the next main, and substitute, Aston Villa goalkeepers?
Due to the impending financial restraint by Financial Fair Play, Villa must be very careful and frugal about their spending in the coming months. Although nothing is for certain, Villa are not without options at the goalkeeper position in the event that they do not sign any new blood.
Could our Next Goalkeepers be a Product of the Academy?
The 25 year old Jed Steer could possibly finally see his time at Villa tilt into a starting goalkeeper position. Although Steer is rehabbing from a dislocated shoulder injury that occurred in January, the Norwich-born man has shown that he can be in the finest of form on his day. Steer was definitely a stand out for Villa during pre-season at the Cup Of Traditions tournament in Germany. There were a panoply of saves Steer made that had a lasting impression on a few AVFC supporters. One could argue that the competition in that preseason tournament wasn’t close to the competition found in the Championship. But, it was indeed a very impressive performance by a goalkeeper that hasn’t gotten many nods for the starting eleven to that point of his career.
After the preseason ended, Steer was to be the utilised keeper for Cup competitions. Steer played in three EFL Cup matches this season. His first opposition in early August was an EFL Cup clash against Colchester United at the Colchester Community Stadium. Conditions for the game were absolutely woeful with rain coming down at the stadium resembling a scene out of a movie more so than an early summer night in Essex. Villa would go onto defeat the hosts 2-1. Steve Bruce was quoted after the game as saying:
“The conditions were tough and we had a makeshift back four, so it was always going to be difficult. Jed pulled off two or three very good saves and I’m delighted for him, because he’s worked really hard to get back. He ruptured his Achilles in my first week at the club but he’s a very decent goalkeeper and he got his rewards.”
After his performance against Colchester, Steer was undoubtedly the man Steve Bruce wanted to spell Sam Johnstone for the foreseeable future. This was also the case for Championship football, which saw Steer implemented as a mainstay on the bench. Steer would go on to play in the 2nd round of the EFL Cup against Wigan where Aston Villa won 4-1. Steer would find himself on the losing side of the 3rd round of the EFL Cup in no small part to a Tommy Elphick dismissal in the 58th minute after acquiring two yellow cards in the contest. While Villa wouldn’t progress further in the EFL Cup, Steer did enough to finally get some recognition as a solid and competent backup to Sam Johnstone. It would not be a stretch of the imagination to see Steer come back into the Aston Villa fold this year with all of the financial constraints and uncertainties surrounding the club at the present time. Again, Steer suffered a shoulder injury in January but should be ready to go for the start of preseason. If he can get stuck in and work as hard as he did to gain backup status within the Aston Villa squad, we might be seeing talented goalkeepers at Villa Park for some time to come.
The 20-year old Matija Sarkic would not be a bad backup option for Villa after the season he had with the u23s. Earlier in the season, Sarkic was loaned out to Wigan Athletic but didn’t see much playing time with the League One outfit outside of Cup competitions. In five games played for Wigan, Sarkic conceded eight goals.
Sarkic was a major factor in the Villa youngsters winning the Premier League Cup. Villa played Swansea in the final that saw the game go goalless through 120 minutes. The game was to be decided on penalties, and Sarkic stepped up in a massive way. The Montenegrin keeper made two outstanding penalty saves to hold off Swansea and grant his fellow young teammates the pleasure of hoisting silverware after a very good campaign. Sarkic not only impressed in Premier League Cup play for the Villa U23’s, but also showed a lot of potential and skill during the Premier League 2 campaign.
Sarkic was the starting keeper for the U23’s in Premier League 2 play fourteen times this season, conceding sixteen goals along the way. He also kept up with three clean sheets along the way. There is no doubt that the youngster can improve his game in a few areas, but the drive and concentration on display from such a young goalkeeper is definitely something to keep an eye on. His development could be vital for Aston Villa moving forward, especially after the disappointment of losing in the Sky Bet Championship Playoff Final. It may be a little too early to start calling for Sarkic to be a starting goalkeeper, but Steve Bruce would be wise to have a long and hard look at Sarkic in preseason to make a claim if the 20 year old is ready to be there when called upon.