Rob Page has suggested Brennan Johnson was let down in trying to get fit for international duty after the forward was ruled out of Wales’ opening two Euro 2024 qualifiers.
Page said Nottingham Forest’s decision to play Johnson against Newcastle on March 17 after he was injured the previous weekend effectively ended his chances of playing against Croatia and Latvia.
Johnson suffered a groin injury at Tottenham six days earlier, and Forest’s Welsh boss Steve Cooper said before the Newcastle game it was unlikely that the winger would be involved in the match.
But Johnson played the full 90 minutes of Forest’s 2-1 defeat and did not arrive at the Wales camp as expected.
The in-form forward, who has scored seven Premier League goals this season, was eventually ruled out of both games by Page on Friday.
“I should have been stronger on Sunday to get Brennan through the door so we could have had eyes on him,” a visibly angry Page said at his pre-match press conference for the Croatia game in Split.
“We were aware of something last week and then he went and played 90 minutes on the Friday and wasn’t available to meet up on the Sunday.
“First and foremost I feel for Brennan. 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.”
Johnson is arguably Forest’s most important player as Cooper’s side try to stay in the Premier League.
The 21-year-old is also seen as Gareth Bale’s natural heir after the retirement of the Wales superstar.
Page said: “They (Forest) know the ins and outs of how Brennan is, better than myself, they work with him day in day out.
“Ultimately it’s about the player’s welfare. In playing 90 minutes on Friday, it has obviously put him out of contention for us.
“What they do now for the rest of the week is out of my control. It’s been frustrating, but I’ve got to pick a team now and focus on other players.
“Like I said, 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 implied further criticism of Forest when he compared their handling of the Johnson situation with Wales to that of Millwall’s over their striker Tom Bradshaw.
He said: “Tom has turned up not in an immaculate condition because of the minutes he’s played all season, but they couldn’t have been more supportive.
“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.
“I couldn’t thank Millwall for being any more supportive, allowing the player to come and backing us with a plan and working together.
“We’re both managers, we’ve both got a job to do, but it’s that mutual respect where we get the best, ultimately, for the player. This is all about the player.”