Brennan Johnson: Wales have made me feel at home

By Gareth VincentBBC Sport Wales
Brennan Johnson
Brennan Johnson made his senior Nottingham Forest against West Bromwich Albion on the opening day of the current 2019-20 season

Brennan Johnson had not long turned 18 when he emulated his father by playing for Nottingham Forest.

The hope in Wales is that the promising attacking midfielder does not follow his dad's lead once again at international level, for David Johnson is the Welsh international who never was.

Twenty years ago, there were question marks about which country Johnson senior, a goal-scorer at Forest and Ipswich, would represent.

A former England B cap, Johnson was called up - and paraded in front of the media - by Wales only to subsequently commit himself to Scotland and end up playing for Jamaica when it emerged he was not eligible for any home nation other than England.

His son's story is different. Born in Nottingham, the younger Johnson represented England at under-16 and under-17 level.

Yet he qualifies for Wales through his mother's family, who hail from Rhayader in mid Wales, and has worn the dragon on his chest at under-19 and under-21 level.

Johnson, who was 18 in May, scored the winner on his Wales Under-21 debut against Belgium in September, and should feature again when Paul Bodin's team face Bosnia-Herzegovina in another Euro 2021 qualifier in Wrexham on Tuesday, 19 November.

Yet there were suggestions in the media earlier in the autumn that Johnson's eye-catching progress at Forest has been noted by England manager Gareth Southgate.

Until such time as Johnson plays competitive senior football for Wales, therefore, there may be questions about which country he will opt for.

For the moment there appear to be no doubts, with Johnson wearing the red dragon proudly on his chest at Wales Under-21s' training base.

"I did play for England, but I can't fault Wales," he told BBC Sport Wales.

"It's been really good. Wales have made me feel at home and I am loving playing for them.

"The Welsh link is all my mum's side of the family, who I have been really close with all my life.

David Johnson
David Johnson began his career as a youngster at Manchester United

"I always see them - they always come round. They are all Wales fans and they have been telling me to play for Wales.

"I am enjoying coming away with the under-21s and hopefully things can progress. Hopefully I can keep making them proud."

Johnson is "not too sure" about the details of his dad's near miss with Wales.

"It would have been nice if he had played for them as well," he adds.

"But he has liked seeing me play for Wales. He has been to watch the games and he is really happy with me playing for Wales."

Not surprisingly, Johnson regularly looks to his father, a Manchester United product who also played for both Sheffield clubs and Burnley among others, for footballing guidance.

"I get advice from him - what he used to do and how he might have changed things as a player," he says.

"He can tell me what I should do and how I can maybe do things differently. I only see that as a positive.

"I was quite young when he was playing, but I have seen some stuff on YouTube. He liked to show me when I was younger, but now I show him my stuff."

There are plenty of people taking notice of what the younger Johnson can do.

Born and raised in Nottingham, he joined Forest at the age of eight and made his senior debut as a substitute on the opening day of this season.

Johnson has made another four Forest appearances to date and his progress was recognised when he signed a new long-term deal in September.

Sabri Lamouchi, the former France international who has made an impressive start to life as Forest boss, called Johnson an "unbelievable player" while also hailing his mentality.

Brennan Johnson in action
Brennan Johnson in action for Nottingham Forest against Arsenal in the EFL Cup

"He is really good with us - all the young players," Johnson says.

"I thought I would be with the under-23s at the start of the season and hopefully towards the back-end of the season I might be involved with the first team.

"To be in since the start has been great and I think it's only going to make me a better player.

"I have just got to keep doing what I am doing in training every day at Forest and hopefully I can get more appearances. Then coming away with Wales is a bonus."

For Johnson, these are exciting times. Forest are fifth in the Championship and look capable of competing for a long-awaited return to the Premier League.

And if Johnson continues to thrive under Lamouchi, a chance to play for Ryan Giggs will surely not be far away.

"You can see the lads who were playing for Wales Under-21s last year and have now progressed to the senior side," Johnson says.

"It's really good to be part of that."

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