Nottingham Forest’s Brennan Johnson on being labelled ‘the future of Welsh football’

Nottingham Forest’s Brennan Johnson on being labelled ‘the future of Welsh football’


If Brennan Johnson ever needs advice on how to handle his growing fame, he can always turn to one of the game’s brightest stars.

The Nottingham Forest forward will try to help his club return to the Premier League for the first time this century on Sunday as they prepare for the Championship play-off final against Huddersfield Town, said to be worth at least £150million to the winner.

Johnson’s father, David, played for Forest during a 13-year career that began at Manchester United, where he struck up a friendship with David Beckham. The pair have remained close ever since, to the extent that when Brennan turned 21 on May 23, the former England captain offered his congratulations on Instagram.

Nottingham Forest forward Brennan Johnson celebrates scoring against Sheffield United

Nottingham Forest forward Brennan Johnson celebrates scoring against Sheffield United

The 21-year-old Welshman scored in both legs of the Championship play-off semi-final

The 21-year-old Welshman scored in both legs of the Championship play-off semi-final

Alongside a picture of himself and Brennan, Beckham wrote to his 73.4m followers: ‘Great job mum and dad. Young, talented but most importantly a great kid.’

Whatever happens on Sunday, there is every chance Johnson will be a Premier League player next season. Brentford had four bids rejected in January, while Leeds, Newcastle and Leicester have also been following the situation closely, with only 12 months remaining on Johnson’s contract.

Yet the dream for Johnson would be to get there with Forest. The Wales international was happy enough at the club to make clear that he did not want to leave in January and since the window closed, he has hit 12 goals in 22 games. 

Playing either wide or through the middle, Johnson has stepped up in the absence of Lewis Grabban and Keinan Davis and delivered exactly when Forest needed it most, scoring in both legs as they squeaked past Sheffield United on penalties in the play-off semi-finals.

If Steve Cooper’s appointment last September was the catalyst for Forest’s remarkable climb from relegation contenders to automatic promotion hopefuls, then Johnson’s role has been almost as important.

Johnson has a close relationship with David Beckham through Johnson's father's playing days

Johnson has a close relationship with David Beckham through Johnson’s father’s playing days

He also hopes to help Wales qualify for the World Cup when they face either Scotland or Ukraine in a play-off on June 5. Gareth Bale remains the main man yet Johnson looks a possible successor.

‘Brennan is the future of Welsh football and I think he’s top-six (Premier League) quality now,’ said Wales boss Rob Page. ‘He’s shown he’s got that potential and ability.

‘I’ve seen it in him for a long time and it’s been great to watch his development. I think that the teams showing interest in him in January have lost out now.

‘There was a lot of hype about him in January and that hasn’t fazed him at all. He hasn’t crumbled under that pressure. He’s enjoyed it and he’s gone to another level again.

‘He could have chased the money and quadrupled his wages, if not more. But it’s not about that for him, and it’s so refreshing to see young lads want to play and win trophies.’

The Nottingham Forest star was sought after by multiple Premier League clubs in January

The Nottingham Forest star was sought after by multiple Premier League clubs in January

If Forest beat Huddersfield, they will be confident of persuading Johnson to agree a new deal with a huge increase in wages. It would also improve their prospects of re-signing wide man Djed Spence and midfielder James Garner, on loan from Middlesbrough and Manchester United respectively, and of turning Davis’ loan from Aston Villa into a permanent move.

Yet the margins are so fine that if Forest fall short at Wembley, repeating this season’s work will be tough. It is hard to imagine Johnson, Spence and Garner doing another season in the Championship, while Davis would have offers from wealthier clubs.

Yet with Johnson in their ranks, Forest will be optimistic. Those who have watched him progress through the academy talk often about his humility, while Michael Appleton – who took Johnson to Lincoln on loan when he was manager at the League One club – was convinced of his potential instantly.

The 21-year-old has been described as 'the future of Welsh football' by his international coach

The 21-year-old has been described as ‘the future of Welsh football’ by his international coach

‘He is very exciting, very easy on the eye,’ said Appleton. ‘When you’re the opposition manager in League One or the Championship, hopefully soon the Premier League, he’s someone you’d take note of.

‘I’ve got no doubts he’ll end up playing in the Premier League. For who? I’ve got no idea. Forest will be hoping it’s for them, but he’s a Welsh international now and is well established in Forest’s side. He’s only going in one direction.’

A message from one of the world’s most famous footballers is not a bad 21st birthday present. Promotion to the Premier League, however, would be an even better one.

Nottingham Forest take on Huddersfield in the Championship play-off final on Sunday

Nottingham Forest take on Huddersfield in the Championship play-off final on Sunday



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