Brennan Johnson tipped for senior future after Wales lost out on father David

By Chris WathanBBC Sport Wales
Nottingham Forest's Joe Lolley (left), Brennan Johnson (centre) and Yuri Ribeiro celebrate.
Brennan Johnson (centre) made his Championship debut for Nottingham Forest this season

There was a time when a young English talent opting for Wales over the Three Lions would have made headlines.

But that was before Wales made something of a habit of persuading potential stars that red shirts suited them more than white.

David Brooks and Ethan Ampadu are perhaps the most obvious examples, both firmly part of Ryan Giggs' plans having either played for England's age-grade sides or been heavily courted by them.

So, on the face of it, Brennan Johnson's decision to side with Wales should not be seen as something out of the ordinary.

An England international at Under-16 and Under-17, the 18-year-old added to his growing reputation as a real prospect with a goal on his debut as Wales Under-21s beat Belgium in Wrexham.

Except for the fact it's the latest twist in a tale of erroneous eligibility, a slice of pub trivia regularly repeated by fans citing the often bizarre nature of following Wales in the 1990s.

Welsh for a week

Nottingham Forest prospect Brennan Johnson is the son of David Johnson, the former Forest and Ipswich Town striker who was once Welsh for a week.

Johnson, a former Manchester United team-mate of Giggs, was called into the Wales squad in September 1999 to face Switzerland in then manager Mark Hughes' first home game in charge.

Cue photocalls and interviews and supporter excitement that a 23-year-old, who was leading the scoring charts in the second tier at the time, would help breathe some life into a side fresh out of the Bobby Gould era.

He had already played for England B as well as some friendlies for Jamaica, the country of his birth, but was deemed eligible to play for any of the Home Nations thanks to his British passport.

David Johnson's goal-scoring exploits for Nottingham Forest and Ipswich Town saw him courted by all four Home Nations
David Johnson's goal-scoring exploits for Nottingham Forest and Ipswich Town saw him courted by all four Home Nations

Northern Ireland had been turned down in favour of Hughes and Wales.

However, an ankle injury stopped him winning a Wales cap - and saw Scotland enter the bidding.

The very next month Johnson committed to Scotland, stating he had been won over by manager Craig Brown and the passion of the fans, having been invited to take in a Rangers game.

Wales expressed their disappointment, but ultimately were simply spared from embarrassment.

Johnson was a surprise omission from the November European Championship play-offs against England because it was discovered his eligibility didn't exist.

Much ado about nothing

Not for Scotland, not for Wales, nor for Northern Ireland who made a renewed bid for his services four years later.

Due to his mother being born in England, Johnson fell foul of a pact between the Home Nations that ruled out such a blanket British choice of who to represent.

There are no such fears for Johnson Jr as, although he was born in Nottingham, Brennan qualifies for Wales via maternal grandparents from Rhayader in mid-Wales.

Still, there have been reports of England looking to lure the teenage midfielder back into their set-up, supposedly determined not to lose another player of potential to Wales.

Those in the Welsh camp do not appear to be overly concerned.

It is thought the Football Association of Wales is yet to receive any indication from its English counterpart over a possible switch in allegiance and says Johnson has been a happy member of the squad for some time.

Indeed, Under-21 manager Paul Bodin believes the ability of Wales to fast-track talented youngsters into Giggs' senior set-up gives them an advantage over rival nations.

Wales defender Joe Rodon (right) tackles Ramil Sheydaev of Azerbaijan
Swansea defender Joe Rodon (right) is the 13th player to make his Wales debut under Ryan Giggs

"Players do get taken out (from the age-grade teams) and moved up to the seniors quite quickly," Bodin said ahead of Tuesday's Euro 2021 qualifier against Germany at Wrexham.

"That's one of the big pulling factors we have when players can possibly play for one or two other nations.

"We explain the pathway to them and they see it visually themselves.

"Sometimes we can lure them to come and play for us."

Clear pathway

Friday's 2-1 European Championship qualifying victory over Azerbaijan saw Swansea defender Joe Rodon become the 13th player to make his debut since Giggs was appointed Wales manager in January 2018.

"Whether you are with the 17s, 19s or 21s, you want to see that pathway into the first team," Bodin said.

"It's a platform from their clubs to progress at international level and hopefully a lot of them step up.

"That has happened without a shadow of a doubt in abundance over the last few years.

"If players are good enough, they will be progressed quite quickly."

Everything points to Brennan Johnson being the next in the queue for a 'Land of my Fathers', hoping to avoid a case of like father, like son.