'Best young goalkeeper in the league': Sam Johnston snapped up by Dungannon Swifts
Headline-making Ards goalkeeper Sam Jonston has been hailed as 'the best young goalkeeper in the league' as he makes a move back to the Danske Bank Premiership.
Despite the club's relegation to the Championship via their play-off defeat to Carrick Rangers, Johnston won supporters across the division with eight clean sheets and EIGHT penalty saves last season.
There will be little surprise that he has not dropped down a division with Ards, instead signing for Dungannon Swifts on a three year deal.
Johnston has saved a total of 10 penalty kicks during his two seasons with Ards, letting in only seven of the 17 spot-kicks he faced.
He kept 18 clean sheets in 69 appearances for the club and first grabbed wider attention when he delivered a stunning display at Windsor Park to hold would-be champions Linfield to a 0-0 draw in September
Ards team-mate Craig McClean, speaking back in October, tipped Johnston for a move to professional football.
"Sam can thrive in a full-time environment, either in the south or across the water," he said. "He has the ability and as one of the experienced players at Ards I feel I can help him and encourage him to develop in the right way."
Dungannon boss Kris Lindsay was also keen to talk up his new recruit, hoping he can attract similar top names to Stangmore Park.
"He’s the best young goalkeeper in the league. He’s still only 22 but he’s got a lot of experience behind him and a lot of top performances," Lindsay told dungannonswiftsfc.com.
"It’s a signing that we are looking to build the Club around, young, hungry players, who can improve and who can also hit the ground running. We want to mix them in with the experience that we already have here at Dungannon. Sam fits that build perfectly and I’m expecting big things from him. He’s a talented, talented goalkeeper and he’s a top person as well."
Johnston said his new side, under the stewardship of Lindsay, will be aiming for a top half finish next season.
"Dungannon is a real family club and every time I come here, I’ve always had a good experience of people around the club," he told the Dungannon Swifts clubs website.
"If it wasn’t for the poor start for us (Dungannon) last season I personally think we would have got close to the top six, if not that seventh spot. Definitely though, moving on to next season I think we have a good chance of getting that top six spot. I think we could even push on further than that and get good runs in the Cup competitions too. I’m really looking forward to getting started in a few weeks time.”
Johnston played for Linfield's Academy before moving to start his career at Harland and Wolff Welders and on to Ards.
Belfast Telegraph Digital