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

if Ever needing advice on how to deal with his growing fame, Brennan Johnson 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, who are reportedly worth at least £150m for the winner.

Johnson’s father, David, played for Forest during a 13-year career that started at Manchester United, where he befriended David Beckham. The pair have remained close since then, 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 his goal against Sheffield United

Nottingham Forest forward Brennan Johnson celebrates his goal against Sheffield United

The 21-year-old Welshman scored in both legs of the championship play-off semi-finals

The 21-year-old Welshman scored in both legs of the championship play-off semi-finals

Alongside a photo of himself and Brennan, Beckham wrote to his 73.4 million followers: ‘Well done Mom and Dad. Young, talented but above all a great boy.’

Whatever happens on Sunday, there’s a good chance Johnson will be a Premier League player next season. In January, four bids from Brentford were rejected, while Leeds, Newcastle and Leicester were also closely monitoring the situation, with Johnson’s contract only 12 months left.

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

Johnson played both wide and through the middle, but came on in the absence of Lewis Grabban and Keinan Davis and delivered just when Forest needed it most. †

If Steve Cooper’s appointment last September was the catalyst for Forest’s remarkable climb from relegation candidates to automatic promotion candidates, Johnson’s role was 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 if they face Scotland or Ukraine in a play-off on June 5. Gareth Bale remains the main man, but Johnson looks like a possible successor.

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

“I’ve seen it in him for a long time and it’s 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 about him in January and he doesn’t care at all. He didn’t succumb to 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 his point, and it’s so refreshing to see young guys want to play and win trophies.”

The Nottingham Forest star was wanted by several Premier League clubs in January

The Nottingham Forest star was wanted by several Premier League clubs in January

If Forest beat Huddersfield, they will be sure to convince Johnson to strike a new deal with a massive pay rise. It would also improve their prospects to re-sign wide man Djed Spence and midfielder James Garner, on loan from Middlesbrough and Manchester United respectively, and to turn Davis’ loan from Aston Villa into a permanent one.

Yet the margins are so narrow 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 would get offers from wealthier clubs.

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

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

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

“He’s very exciting, very easy to watch,” Appleton said. “If you’re the opposition manager in League One or the Championship, hopefully the Premier League soon, he’s someone to be reckoned with.

“I have no doubt 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 Welsh international and well established on Forest’s side. He’s only going in one direction.’

A message from one of the world’s most famous soccer players isn’t a bad 21st birthday present. Promotion to the Premier League would be even better though.

Nottingham Forest will face 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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