Nottingham Forest legend Garry Birtles believes Brennan Johnson should remain put at the City Ground despite being the subject of Premier League interest, speaking on the Garibaldi Red Podcast.
20-year-old Johnson has adapted seamlessly to the Championship following a successful loan spell in the third tier last term, thriving under Michael Appleton as he scored 10 goals and recorded 14 assists in 40 League One appearances.
Guiding the Imps to the play-off final, he was unable to get them over the final hurdle, but secured his individual promotion to the second tier as he did more than enough at the LNER Stadium to be included in Chris Hughton’s plans for the 2021/22 campaign as he was linked with a move to Premier League side Brentford.
Quiz: Have Nottingham Forest signed a player from each of these 20 clubs in the last 5 seasons?
As a regular under Irishman Hughton, he has continued to be one of the first names on the teamsheet under successor Steve Cooper and with five goals and four assists to his name in 23 league displays this term, another top-tier club in Leeds United are thought to be monitoring his situation in the East Midlands ahead of a potential January move.
Performing well at Forest and forcing his way back into the Wales side after missing Euro 2020, he could arguably make the step up with an increased amount of domestic and international experience under his belt in recent months.
However, ex-Forest forward Birtles has advised the winger against this move in favour of regular playing time at the City Ground, something he’s likely to get even with likely additions in the winter window.
Speaking about the 20-year-old, he said (via Nottinghamshire Live): “Whatever advice he gets from his dad [David Johnson], I’d advise him to listen. He played at a high level. I always tell young players to listen to all advice and decide what is good and bad.
“He’s lucky to have a dad who played professional football.
“I think he should stay at Forest, very much so. Cloughie [Brian Clough] used to say learn your trade. You don’t do that by going somewhere else and not getting in the team.”
From a non-biased point of view, it makes sense for Johnson to remain at Forest. Not only will he receive more game time in the Championship than in the top tier at this stage, but a move up now could hurt his career if he fails to adapt well.
That could be said at most stages of a players’ career because not all can make the step up, but he’s still young and has plenty of time to develop his game before determining whether he’s good enough to play regularly at a higher level or not.
He has been exceptional this season, but there are a few issues that need to be ironed out before he can take his game to the next level, and Forest is the perfect place for him to make those errors as he continues to become accustomed to life in his current division.
There may be a huge amount of pressure with nearly 30,000 pairs of eyes on him at the City Ground every other week, but as one of their own, they will continue to back the Welshman and this is the type of atmosphere that he can thrive in.
He will have time in the summer to reassess his future – but for now – he should be firmly focused on his football with a real chance of winning promotion if his side can sustain their current form.