Nottingham Forest’s Remarkable Journey: How Steve Cooper Secured Survival and Revived the City
In the sanctuary of his office, adorning the wall next to portraits of the legendary Brian Clough, Steve Cooper, the Nottingham Forest manager, has a canvas featuring actor Denzel Washington with a quote underneath, “Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship.” This quote encapsulates the rollercoaster ride of Forest’s Premier League season under Cooper, culminating in an unexpected triumph of survival despite trials and tribulations.
Cooper’s Triumph Amidst Tough Times
Dealing with a staggering 30 new signings, a deplorable away record, an extensive injury list, and the pressure of a World Cup break, Cooper has completed a formidable task that has solidified his place as perhaps the best Forest manager since Frank Clark, or maybe even Clough himself.
Cooper might not be crowned Manager of The Year, but his feat of finishing 16th or 17th should not be understated. The remarkable ability to fuse together new players from varying cultures and leagues and foster a distinct identity and team spirit defines Cooper’s excellent season.
Consider the development of Taiwo Awoniyi, who has evolved from an unseasoned recruit to a game-changing player, netting five goals in just three games. Last season’s standouts – Brennan Johnson, Ryan Yates and Joe Worrall – have proved their calibre at this level. Cooper’s main target last summer, Morgan Gibbs-White, has been a revelation this season, and his inclusion in the senior England squad seems inevitable.
While clubs around Forest in the table, including Leeds, Everton and Leicester, have been rocked by crisis, Forest has remained calm under Cooper’s watch. There has never been any doubt about the team’s commitment. They’ve shown resilience and a knack for bouncing back from setbacks and rising to challenges.
The Cooper Effect Reshaping Nottingham Forest
Cooper’s tactical acumen was on full display in Forest’s recent win over Arsenal. Their strategy to curtail Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard by restricting space and doubling up on them was flawless. The essence of Forest’s success has been cultivated at the training ground, where Cooper encourages open communication, reinforcing the concept of “daily behaviours” and nurturing a familial environment.
Cooper extends his personal touch beyond his squad, welcoming European Cup winners like John McGovern and Garry Birtles regularly to the training ground. Cooper’s impact on Nottingham has also been profound. His influence has even been acknowledged by senior constables from Nottinghamshire Police, who thanked him for his positive contributions to the city.
City Ground – A Fortress of Support
The City Ground stadium has been instrumental in Forest’s season, providing a bastion of support. Thirty of their thirty-seven points have been secured at home, stirring memories of the grand European Cup days. It feels like a sanctuary from a golden era, particularly during the atmospheric night matches with floodlights reflecting off the River Trent.
Despite the team’s tumultuous past, Cooper’s arrival has transformed the City Ground into a happier place. For owner Evangelos Marinakis, survival signifies the next phase in his plan to solidify Forest as a stable Premier League club.
Marinakis also deserves recognition for his patience. His decision to stick with Cooper, despite the high-stress stakes, was crucial. Only Forest and West Ham have kept their managers among the clubs in the bottom half of the table, a decision that has clearly paid dividends.
Looking Ahead – Preparation for the Next Season
After a bustling season of signings, Cooper is set to focus on a clear recruitment strategy to bolster the squad. Forest also plans to pursue a permanent deal for Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson, while Renan Lodi, the Atletico Madrid loanee, is under consideration for a permanent move.
Newly appointed chief football officer Ross Wilson will play a critical role in the club’s progress. Wilson has already recruited Tom Southwell from Southampton as head of player insights, and a revamp is expected within the scouting and recruitment departments.
Survival in the Premier League this season will rank amongst Cooper’s greatest achievements, alongside the World Cup win with England’s under-17s and promotion in last season’s Championship play-off final.
To borrow a quote from Clough: “I hope anybody’s not stupid enough to write us off.” After the remarkable season, Cooper and Nottingham Forest are ready to rest, recharge, and prepare for the exciting challenge that lies ahead.