Nottingham Forest have had a brilliant season since Steve Cooper arrived at the club and now find themselves 90 minutes from promotion to the Premier League.
After finishing the league in fourth position, Forest were able to overcome Sheffield United in the play-off semi-finals.
The Reds are now preparing for the play-off final against Huddersfield Town and regardless of the result, you can be sure that Forest will go into this game with a strong sense of team spirit given the relationship Cooper has built between the club and fans.
Talking to the Garibaldi Red podcast, Brennan Johnson’s dad David, who is a former Reds player himself, spoke about what happened before the Bournemouth game, which could have seen Forest gain automatic promotion: “The manager got them up and Joe [Worrall] was that emotional he started crying. He was saying you don’t understand how much this means to me, my family and the people who work here.
“It went through the whole team. You need people like that at a football club. If you don’t have that everyone is just an employee and it’s a job. It means the world for those lads. Sunday’s a massive game for everyone but you need a core of homegrown players and they’re the ones who will carry a lot of burden but with a lot of pride.
“He got all the parents – and himself – to write a note to all the players so every time they open their locker there’s a message. It must mean a lot. Those little details from the manager and his staff are spot on.”
Furthermore, Cooper is carrying this relationship on away from football as Johnson shared how the club were preparing off the pitch as he said: “We had a barbecue on Saturday and the legends were all there – John Robertson, Ian Storey-Moore. You had the players there and there’s a bouncy castle for the kids. All the players were playing cricket. Dads were playing too. It was great. That never happened in my career with families. Never.
“He [Cooper] showed me a picture of him with his son walking round and said this means more to me than anything, for him to see what we’re doing. He said it’s all about family. It’s the team spirit that hopefully gets them over the line.”
Quiz: Can you name which club Nottingham Forest sold these 23 players to from the last decade?
Looking forward to the game, the striker’s Dad has faith in his son’s side as he said: “They knew where they wanted to stand [against Sheffield United]. They had practiced for weeks and weeks. The manager leaves no stone unturned. The players on the penalties had worked on where the goalie would dive. Everything had been put into place.
“It’s a cup tie [the final] and we’ve done well int here of them this year. As a fan, as a dad, I hope Forest turn up and express themselves. If they do they’ve got a very good chance.
“Huddersfield are underrated. They finished above us and they’ve been excellent all year. They’re probably a team Forest enjoy playing against because they’re very good from set pieces, so our players know they have to be on it.
“They’re very good but if Forest play well they’ve got a great chance. Play-off games tend to be 1-0, 1-1 – there’s not big scoreline as people get nervous. It’s going to be a good game and I think one goal might settle it.”
Gaining an insight into the kind of relationship Steve Cooper has with the players and the things they do off the pitch as a team helps understand why they have been so successful under his management this season.
To the Forest boss, his job extends from just his work on the football pitch and working with a ball and he genuinely values the team and the impact that a good relationship at the club has on the football side of things too.
Of course, the football preparation will help Forest as they approach the final but they will also feel confident in one another as they take to the pitch and aim to gain promotion to the top flight.