Rob Page criticises Nottingham Forest over Brennan Johnson’s Wales absence

<span>Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters

Rob Page has hit out at Nottingham Forest over their handling of Brennan Johnson after the forward was ruled out of Wales’s opening Euro 2024 qualifiers. Johnson will play no part against Croatia on Saturday and will also miss Tuesday’s home match against Latvia after aggravating a groin problem in Forest’s defeat to Newcastle last week.

Page accused Forest of disrespecting Wales by allowing Johnson to play more than 90 minutes against Newcastle. The 21-year-old was subsequently unable to report for international duty 48 hours later because of injury.

“First and foremost I feel for Brennan,” Page said. “He wants to play international football like everybody else. As we know, playing for your country is something very special, it shouldn’t be taken for granted, by anyone. Everybody who has got a responsibility for Brennan should respect that and help him in any way they can.

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“It’s very special to be in that changing room and play for your country. You shouldn’t take that for granted. The people responsible for him shouldn’t take that for granted and should appreciate and respect that as well.”

Page cited Millwall’s handling of striker Tom Bradshaw, recalled to the Wales squad after a five-year absence, as a contrasting example. “We’ve had Tom turn up, not in an immaculate condition because of the minutes he’s played all season, but they couldn’t have been more supportive,” Page said. “It’s about that respect for your country, for your jersey. He was the first through the door, we’ve managed his loads all week and he’s now in a position where he’s raring to go.”

Aaron Ramsey, named captain after Gareth Bale’s retirement, said Wales must adapt to the post-Bale era. Bale, Joe Allen, Jonny Williams and Chris Gunter, the AFC Wimbledon defender who has joined Page’s staff for the March double header, all retired from playing for Wales after the World Cup in Qatar. “There was always going to be that transitional period,” Ramsey said.

“The quality that we have lost – we were blessed with so many great players – but there are players in this squad that are more than capable of creating their own history and stepping up to the plate and delivering on the big stage.

“There has been change – familiar faces are no longer there. It’s part of football. It’s forever changing and developing. There are a lot of chances now for the younger players to step up. With the quality of players we have lost, it’s going to be different but I believe in this team and in the staff that we can progress again.”

The Tottenham defender Ben Davies has withdrawn from the squad with a hamstring issue, and goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey is also sidelined.