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Wales ‘raring to go’ ahead of crunch World Cup play-off – Brennan Johnson

Mar 23, 2022 | 11:15:AM

Brennan Johnson hopes to make a World Cup play-off impact for Wales after missing out on Euro 2020 selection last summer.

Johnson failed to make the cut for Wales’ 26-man squad at the European Championship delayed 12 months by coronavirus, despite scoring 13 goals on loan at Lincoln last season and helping the Imps into the League One play-offs.

The 20-year-old winger was told by the Wales management why he had just fallen short of selection, and Johnson has responded with a season to remember at Nottingham Forest.

Nottingham Forest v Leicester City – Emirates FA Cup – Fourth Round – City Ground
Brennan Johnson celebrates scoring against holders Leicester in the FA Cup, one of his dozen goals for Nottingham Forest this season (Tim Goode/PA)

Johnson has scored 12 goals as Forest have surged into the Championship play-off reckoning and was the subject of a reported £18million bid from Premier League club Brentford in January.

“Obviously, I was disappointed not being in the Euro squad,” Johnson said ahead of Wales’ World Cup play-off semi-final with Austria in Cardiff.

“I spoke to the manager (Robert Page) around that time and he explained it.

“He went for different players. There’s a big squad and a lot of good quality in the team.

“Taking my game to the next level was the kind of the message I got and hopefully I’ve been able to do that.”

Johnson has plenty of competition for a Wales starting spot on Thursday, with skipper Gareth Bale, Daniel James and Harry Wilson all fit and available.

But Johnson heads into Wales’ biggest World Cup tie in years – the Dragons’ only previous appearance in the finals came in 1958 – with the praise of former Forest and Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane ringing in his ears.

Keane, working as a pundit on Forest’s FA Cup quarter-final tie against Liverpool on Sunday, described Johnson as a “natural footballer”.

Johnson said: “It’s always nice to hear things like that from such good players, especially ones that have played for Forest.

England v Wales – International Friendly – Wembley Stadium
Football pundit Roy Keane praised Brennan Johnson’s ability at the Nottingham Forest-Liverpool FA Cup tie (Nick Potts/PA)

“The whole team has been playing well.

“We’ve been pushing up the league and I’ve been really enjoying my football. Steve Cooper (Forest manager) has given me the confidence to go and express myself in games.

“We all know what a big game it is on Thursday and everyone is raring to go now.

“We know how big it is for the whole nation, getting to the World Cup will be massive. But I think we’ve just got to stay calm and get the job done.”