Steve Cooper is chasing history with Nottingham Forest and promises to add MORE players to his squad
TOM COLLOMOSSE: Steve Cooper is embracing Forest’s glorious history instead of running away from it…it always took a big investment with four major borrowers gone, but they bought wisely – and Brennan Johnson could be a breakthrough star
- Steve Cooper has been Nottingham Forest’s most popular manager for years
- He led the club from the bottom of the championship to promotion in May
- The Welshman has also secured the services of Jesse Lingard for next season
- The manager has also promised to add more signatures to the 12 already made
To call ‘Brian Clough’ or ‘European Cups’ for most managers of Nottingham Forest this century, and they usually run a mile. But as he prepares for the club’s first top campaign since 1998-99, Steve Cooper is embracing that glorious history.
The Welshman has been Forest’s most popular manager for years, having led the club from the bottom of the championship when he took over in September last year to promotion through the play-offs in May. And if he was hoping to catch his breath this summer, Cooper will have been disappointed.
Jesse Lingard has been the biggest name of an eye-catching recruiting campaign that has cost Forest around £85million – promising more signatures to add to the 12 already created.
Steve Cooper has been Nottingham Forest’s most popular manager for years
Ahead of his team’s opening game at Newcastle, Cooper promised the spending would continue, with Wolves midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White – valued at around £30million by his club – high on the agenda.
“I think there will be more ins and outs,” said Cooper. “We had no choice but to make the amount of changes we’ve made and are still making.
“In an ideal world we would have liked to have continued with much of last season’s team and added in the areas we thought we needed.
“Last season we had five players on loan and this summer we had no contract. Even if we were still in the championship, we would have made the same number of changes.”
He led the club from the bottom of the championship to promotion through the play-off in May
As a result, the faithful of Nottingham Forest (pictured above) have fallen in love with the boss
Any club that spends a lot of money after promotion runs the risk of being compared to Fulham, who put £105 million on 10 players in the summer of 2018 and were promptly relegated.
Cooper was careful to avoid such a discussion, though he knows the answers won’t come until the action starts. Forest needs players like Lingard to shine from the start, as he is the only player – with the possible exception of Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson – with significant Premier League experience.
When Djed Spence, James Garner, Philip Zinckernagel and Keinan Davis returned to their parent clubs after loan spells, it left a gap in the Forest team that needed to be closed. Assuming Cooper sticks to the 3-4-1-2 system that won the promotion, record tally Taiwo Awoniyi will take on the role of Davis alongside Brennan Johnson – a potential breakthrough star of the Premier League campaign – while Lingard Zinckernagel just behind it would replace the forwards.
The Welshman has also secured the services of Jesse Lingard for the 2022-23 campaign
If his performance for Wales against the biggest opponents is any guideline, Neco Williams looks like a decent successor to Spence at right-back, while the judges are in Forest’s midfield. Lewis O’Brien proved he was a neat operator for Huddersfield and with Ryan Yates injured, Orel Mangala – signed from Stuttgart – should team him up.
Cooper is a great coach and a good man, but he has a huge task ahead of him. On the pitch, he has to make sure the new guys blend in well with the old guard – no easy task when players who sign post promotion often get higher salaries than those who did.
The affluent but volatile owner Evangelos Marinakis expects a quick return on his investment, while his son Miltiadis has significant influence.
Then there’s CEO Dane Murphy, football director Kyriakos Dourekas, head of scouting Andy Scott and former CEO Ioannis Vrentzos, who will remain on the board. There will be tough moments this season and unity behind the scenes is just as important in the boardroom as it is on the pitch.
He promises to attract more players and Morgan Gibbs-White is high on the agenda
You don’t win points for impressive press conferences, but so far Cooper has been pitch-perfect. He expressed his optimism about Forest’s prospects without being reckless. He has an instinctive understanding of the relationship between the club and its fans in the city. Above all, he is not afraid of the past and cherishes his time with the European Cup winners of 1979 and 1980.
“I love talking for hours with John McGovern and Gary Birtles and John Robertson,” Cooper revealed. “You often hear people say that Nottingham Forest is a historic club and one of the main reasons is Mr Clough, the teams he has put together and the success they have had.
‘I am interested in history. It helps me to be the best head coach here because you know who you’re representing.”