News is emerging tonight that Michael Appleton is closing in on a loan deal for West Brom keeper Alex Palmer.
Journalist Alan Nixon has tweeted that we are interested in taking Palmer on a season-long loan, presumably as number one keeper. I’ve been suggesting we may look to loan a keeper in to complement Ethan Ross and it seems that keeper may well be the 24-year-old.
Normally, when you consider a loan, it is for a young player looking to break through, but Palmer already has broken through. He spent last season on loan with Plymouth Argyle, playing 37 times and earning rave reviews for his time there. His efforts helped them to promotion from League Two and he was rewarded on his return to the Hawthorns with a new contract.
When he penned his new, three-year deal, West Brom’s technical director Luke Dowling said: “He’s gone away into a tough environment and finished up a promotion winner; that is an invaluable experience for a young player learning the realities of the game,
“Now we’ll sit down with him in the summer and discuss the next phase of his development, whether that be here or perhaps with another loan.”
If he is available for loan, then there would certainly be interest from Ryan Lowe, the Plymouth boss. He tipped Palmer to be around the West Brom first team next season, adding: “If he goes out on loan again, would he bypass Plymouth Argyle? Probably, yeah. Could he go to the Championship? Yeah, 100 per cent. But if the option arose, and he wanted to come back then we would certainly look at it.”
The noises are all the type you want to hear; praise from his parent club and praise from the club he’s been on loan with. Last season really was the breakout season for the Kidderminster-born stopper, who has previously enjoyed two spells with his hometown club as well as short stints at Oldham and Notts County. Neither of the last two loans led to much first-team action as they were seven-day emergency spells, but he certainly grasped the mantle at Home Park, grabbing the most clean sheets in League Two, and now looks set to kick on in a major way.
Had the Baggies not been promoted, there is every likelihood that he would have remained with them as a backup to Sam Johnstone, a keeper who enjoyed a loan spell from a Premier League club in the lower divisions and went on to forge a great career.
I’m beginning to take what Nixon says with a pinch of salt at times, especially after this claim he made, but this rumour does gain traction when you consider the variables. We need a keeper, but perhaps one with some senior experience and proven performances, which Palmer has. We also expect to deal with West Brom this summer, given Michael’s connections, and as he’s respected there it is likely they’ll favour us when loaning out their talent. Everything seems to fit with this particular piece of news, and it rubber-stamps my belief that we’ll loan in a keeper and look to develop Ethan Ross into the stopper Colchester fans feel he could become.
One point I would make about Palmer is related to xG and actual goals conceded. I know xG isn’t a hard and fast science, but comparing the two is reflective of the chances he faced, and the goals he conceded. Last season, he conceded 0.97 goals per game for Plymouth, but the xGC (expected goals conceded) was 1.09. In other words, he conceded fewer goals than the stats suggested he should. To contrast that with Josh Vickers, he conceded 1.21 goals per game, when the xGC was only 1. Again, that is for comparison, but Josh conceded more than the quality of chances he faced suggested he should. I’ll also throw Matt Gilks’ ratio in there, mainly because he’s one of the best keepers I recall seeing at City. Gilks conceded 0.46 goals per game when the chances he faced suggested he should concede 0.62. again, a negative goal to xCG ratio is a great barometer of a decent keep and it seems to me Alex Palmer is a more than a decent keeper.
What I would expect is news shortly if it is happening, as West Brom begin to shape their squad for next season, and as our own pre-season routine gets firmly underway.