if Brennan Johnson is always in need of advice on how to deal with his growing fame, he can always turn to one of the game’s brightest stars.
The Nottingham Forest forward will look 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, which will award the winner at least 150 said to be worth millions of pounds.
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 couple have remained close since, insofar as Brennan turned 21 on May 23, the former England captain congratulated him on Instagram.
Nottingham Forest forward Brennan Johnson celebrates scoring against Sheffield United
The 21-year-old Welshman scored in both legs of the semi-finals of the Championship play-offs
Alongside a picture of himself and Brennan, Beckham wrote to his 73.4million followers: “Great job mom and dad. Young, talented, but above all a great kid.”
Whatever happens on Sunday, there’s every chance Johnson will be a Premier League player next season. Brentford had four rejected offers in January, while Leeds, Newcastle and Leicester have also been following the situation closely, with Johnson’s contract having just 12 months left.
But Johnson’s dream would be to get there with Forest. The Wales international was happy enough at the club to make it clear he didn’t want to leave in January and since the window closed he has scored 12 goals in 22 games.
Playing either wide or through the middle, Johnson has reinforced in the absence of Lewis Grabban and Keinan Davis and delivered exactly when Forest needed it most, scoring in both legs as they attacked on penalties in the play-off semifinals Sheffield United squeaked past .
If Steve Cooper’s appointment last September was the catalyst for Forest’s remarkable rise from relegation contender to automatic promotion contender, Johnson’s role was almost as important.
Johnson has a close relationship with David Beckham during Johnson’s father’s playing days
He also hopes to help Wales qualify for the World Cup when they face Scotland or Ukraine in a play-off on June 5. Gareth Bale remains the main character, but Johnson sees a possible successor.
“Brennan is the future of Welsh football and I think he’s got top six quality (Premier League) now,” said Wales manager Rob Page. “He showed that he has that potential and that ability.
“I’ve seen it in him for a long time and it’s been great to see his development. I think the teams that showed interest in him in January have now lost.
“There was a lot of hype around him in January and it didn’t upset him at all. He didn’t collapse under that pressure. He enjoyed it and went to another level again.
“He could have chased the money and quadrupled his wages, if not more. But that’s not what he’s about and it’s so refreshing to see young lads wanting to play and win trophies.”
The Nottingham Forest star was wanted by several Premier League clubs in January
If Forest beats Huddersfield they will be confident of convincing Johnson to agree a new deal with a huge pay rise. It would also improve their prospects of signing wide man Djed Spence, respectively on loan from Middlesbrough and Manchester United, and midfielder James Garner, and turning Davis’ loanee from Aston Villa into a permanent move.
However, the margins are so good that if Forest falls short at Wembley it will be difficult to repeat this season’s work. It’s hard to imagine Johnson, Spence and Garner playing another season in the Championship while Davis had offers from wealthier clubs.
But with Johnson in their ranks, Forest will be optimistic. Those who have watched his journey through the academy often speak of his humility, while Michael Appleton – who loaned Johnson to Lincoln as manager of the League One club – was immediately convinced of his potential.
The 21-year-old has been dubbed “the future of Welsh football” by his international coach
“He’s very exciting, very pleasing to the eye,” Appleton said. “If you’re the opposing manager in the Premier League or the Championship, hopefully soon in the Premier League, he’s someone you would take notice of.
“I have no doubts that he will play in the Premier League. For whom? I have no idea. Forest will hope it is for them but he is now a Wales international and has established himself well in Forest’s side. It only goes in one direction.’
A message from one of the most famous footballers in the world doesn’t make a bad 21st birthday present. Even better would be promotion to the Premier League.
Nottingham Forest meet Huddersfield in the Championship play-off final on Sunday