Brennan Johnson is benefiting from the “extreme” demands placed on him by Tottenham boss Ange Postecoglou and proving himself to be an elite player, says his Wales manager Rob Page.
Johnson has taken time to settle at Spurs following his £47.5million move from Nottingham Forest during the closing minutes of the summer transfer window.
The 22-year-old forward has yet to score and suffered a hamstring injury on his first Premier League start for Tottenham, ruling him out of action for a month.
Johnson’s second Premier League start against Chelsea on Monday also ended prematurely when he was sacrificed after Spurs were reduced to 10 men by defender Cristian Romero’s red card.
But Johnson has shown signs of promise in North London with a superb assist for Son Heung-min’s winner at Crystal Palace, while he also set up the Spurs skipper for a disallowed effort against Chelsea before his first-half withdrawal.
“Brennan’s at a big, big club now pushing for top four so the demands on him will be extreme,” said Page, who welcomed Johnson back into his squad after injury for this month’s decisive Euro 2024 qualifiers against Armenia and Turkey.
“The squad of players he’s got around him now will be slightly different, but I’m not concerned at all. Even by training with the players he’s with will bring him to another level.
“We’ve all seen the potential. When I worked with him at the Under-21s and the younger age groups, I could see he was going to go (to the top).
“It’s taken him a little bit of time to get up to that standard, but he’s shown glimpses of it.
“What is important now is that he sustains that level by playing with those players and the demands of the manager there. He will absolutely do that.”
Johnson has only scored twice in 22 Wales appearances – against Belgium and the Netherlands in the Nations League – and that is a disappointing return for a player considered to be Gareth Bale’s natural successor in the Dragons’ forward line.
Page suggested that is down to the way Wales have previously been structured as a team but he insists, as evidenced by last month’s stunning 2-1 win over World Cup semi-finalists Croatia, they are evolving as an attacking unit.
He said: “The majority of the games in the World Cup and Nations League A we were the underdogs and not going to have a lot of the ball.
“Our defensive structure has to be spot on if not you’re going to get found out, but as we evolve I’m asking more from the forward players and we saw that against Croatia.
“I brought Jack Lester in (as assistant coach), who’s one of the best forwards I played with and coaches I’ve seen. It was an area I wanted to improve and I’ve seen a difference already.”
Wales will avoid the play-offs in March and qualify automatically for next summer’s Euro 2024 finals in Germany if they beat Armenia in Yerevan on November 18 and Turkey in Cardiff three days later.
Page said: “I like Brennan as a nine purely because of his pace. He did that for us in Latvia (when Wales won 2-0 in September) and there’s not a defender out there who’s going to want to play against him and DJ (Daniel James) because pace frightens defenders.
“But I’m not going to pigeonhole him as a nine. He can play in any one of the front three positions easily.”