Express & Star journalist Luke Hatfield is expecting Premier League clubs to test West Bromwich Albion's resolve for Sam Johnstone when the transfer window reopens in January.
The goalkeeper's Baggies contract is due to expire next summer, meaning the Championship club would lose Johnstone for nothing if he fails to agree fresh terms or secure a move elsewhere when the transfer window reopens.
What's the latest transfer news involving Johnstone?
However, West Brom could be set to miss out on a transfer fee after it was reported Saints and the Hammers are willing to wait until the end of the season, when he could be signed on a free.
West Ham have remained interested in the 28-year-old for some time and saw a £10million bid turned down by Johnstone's current employers during the summer transfer window, with West Brom holding out for double that figure.
The Hammers opted against returning to the Hawthorns with an improved offer and instead signed Paris Saint-Germain's Alphonse Areola on a season-long loan deal which has the option of being made permanent.
Uncertainty over Johnstone's future has not resulted in West Brom head coach Valerien Ismael casting him aside, with the three-cap England international featuring in every Championship fixture since being benched on the opening day of the campaign.
Ismael even admitted to being impressed with Johnstone's attitude after returning from his summer holiday period early.
What has Luke Hatfield said about Johnstone?
Hatfield is confident that West Brom will receive interest from Premier League clubs when the transfer window reopens at the turn of the year.
Although Johnstone could potentially be available for free a matter of months down the line, the journalist reckons suitors may not want to take the risk of getting involved in a tussle next summer and instead pay a cut-price fee in January.
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Hatfield thinks Johnstone could prove to be a shrewd signing midway through the season.
He told GIVEMESPORT: "It wouldn't surprise me to see a club in January go and maybe submit an offer and be willing to pay a little bit now as opposed to getting him for free in the summer but be battling with numerous other sides to get a deal done.
"It'd be a good little bit of business for a Premier League club."
What's the latest news on Johnstone's contract negotiations?
Ismael revealed in August that West Brom want to see Johnstone commit his long-term future to the club and discussions over a new deal had begun.
The head coach went on to confirm a month later that both Johnstone and the club remain relaxed over the situation, with negotiations expected to take some time.
It has since been reported that West Brom will ramp up contract talks with Johnstone in January.
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