From a season long loan to having hopes pinned firmly on his young shoulders. It may be unfair to suggest that Nottingham Forest’s Brennan Johnson is now ‘ready’ to step in to first team shoes, but having played in three of the clubs four pre-season friendlies so far this summer, it looks to be that he’s happy showing Manager Chris Hughton that he has the ability to lead the line next season, having scored three goals in as many games.
Son of ex-Reds favourite David who scored 50 goals for the garibaldi between 2001 & 06, 20 year old locally born Johnson made his debut for Forest against West Brom, coming on as a late substitute on the opening day of the 2019/20 season under then Manager Sabri Lamouchi. Aged just eighteen he went on to make eight-bit part appearances during that campaign before being loaned out last summer to gain more experience at League One Lincoln City.
At Lincoln, it’s been no secret that Brennan shone during a season long loan spell that included 13 goals in 49 games. Picking up his first international caps for Wales along the way, Johnson had previously played for England at U16 & 17 level before switching to the Welsh national set up at under 19’s and 21.
Although Johnson missed out on Rob Page’s final 26 for the Euros, the Welsh Manager has high hopes that a talented player can go on to become a permanent fixture with Cymru and those hopes are certainly echoed within the walls of the City Ground too.
Johnson is different to what Forest already have, a direct runner with the ball, he carries his team mates up the pitch and is electric on the break, loving the inside right role he can cut in and shoot (as he did against Crewe Alexandra on Saturday) and is equally as comfortable on his left foot as he is with his right.
At Lincoln, Johnson produced 12 assists in their League One promotion push with many coming from running at defenders who brought him down inside the box, his persistence to run at opponents and draw fouls, something that Forest can certainly utilise from in the attacking third.
With no outfield signings of note, and less than two weeks before the start of the Championship season, it could be that Johnson has played himself into contention for a start on the opening day of the season verses Coventry City.
With two friendly games to go against Premier League opposition, Aston Villa on Wednesday and Burnley on Saturday, should the young Welsh International appear in any of those matches and do well, it will be hard for Hughton to keep him out of his thoughts come Sunday August 8th and the live screened midlands encounter on Sky.
Whilst the Reds are likely to lead the line again switching between Lewis Grabban and Lyle Taylor next season, those three spots in behind are very much up for grabs themselves, especially not having the likes of Sammy Ameobi, Anthony Knockaert and Filip Krovinovic from last years usual eleven following their departures through the exit door. Whilst Joe Lolley returns from injury and needs still to prove himself to Hughton who all be it has been full of praise of the Brummie winger in pre-season after an indifferent last campaign, Alex Mighten has continued to impress with his jinks from the left, Johnson might be an outside bet to keep his shirt ahead of Lolley on the right.
With Cafu looking like he’ll be the central pivot ahead of Yates and Colback, that gives a fluid front three choice of Mighten, Lolley and/or Johnson behind most likely Lewis Grabban come Coventry weekend, the door very much open for a youngster to grab their shirt and starting place by the bull and horns.
An exciting situation despite the lack of transfer movement for Forest this summer, should Johnson step up and prove his worth, from building on last seasons achievements at Lincoln, it could be like a new signing in itself, and when ‘one of your own’ is doing well, it always seems to matter more.
Here’s hoping he’s a) given the chance and b) continues the tradition of stars to relish in red from the clubs fantastic academy. If Johnson performs to his potential, Forest could certainly not just have one for the future, but one very much good enough for the here and now too.
*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).
*Main image @NFFC Brennan Johnson scored two goals in the friendly draw with Crewe.