Steve Cooper was confirmed as the new manager of Championship side Nottingham Forest this morning, ending days of speculation as the Welshman takes over at the City Ground.
He succeeds former promotion-winner Chris Hughton in the East Midlands, with the 62-year-old being relieved of his duties last Thursday after Forest’s 2-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough, having drawn one and lost six of his opening seven league matches of the 2021/22 campaign.
Cooper, on the other hand, managed to guide former club Swansea City to consecutive top-six finishes during his two seasons in South Wales, leaving the club in late July amid his concerns about the direction of Forest’s second-tier rivals.
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He was previously the subject of interest from Premier League club Crystal Palace, who opted to appoint Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira instead. Nonetheless, Cooper is a talented manager who previously worked in England’s youth setup before taking the plunge into senior management in 2019.
The main criticism Swansea fans had of the 41-year-old, however, was his playing style. But he was reported to be Nottingham Forest CEO Dane Murphy’s first-choice candidate for the job despite previous links with Chris Wilder and John Terry via The Sun (12/9 print edition; page 64).
Now Cooper is finally at the helm, we asked three of our writers at Football League World where they think Forest will finish at the end of the 2021/22 campaign under his stewardship and the reason for their respective predictions.
I think it has to be upper mid-table for me.
Realistically it will be quite hard for him to make a massive impact with players that he didn’t sign himself.
There’s some great young players there for him to nurture but I think his biggest challenge is getting the strikers to score regularly again.
If he can get that happening, then I think he will be halfway towards making them a decent side once more.
The January transfer window could prove to be the real difference-maker during the Cooper era.
I think it’s hard to say where they’ll finish given that only eight games have played.
If they can find a bit of consistency and string a few wins together then the table looks a lot healthier and the targets and goals will change accordingly.
I think what most Forest fans are hoping for at the moment is a change in style and a continuation of Saturday afternoon. The shackles looked like they had come off and they played some excellent football.
They need to start scoring goals and beating teams convincingly before we can begin to make a judgment of where they will finish.
But you cannot rule anything out just yet.
It’s obviously very early to say considering we haven’t seen his side play yet!
However, taking a look at how Forest lined up on Saturday at Huddersfield and subsequently played, it sort of had a Steve Cooper print on it.
The wing-backs pushed high and were aggressive, allowing Forest to turn the ball over in dangerous positions and bring their dangerous attackers into play. They were also solid within their shape.
That defensive solidarity is what impressed me most about Cooper’s Swansea sides. It built a platform for the attackers to go and score goals. He’s got the arsenal to do the same at Forest.
In terms of a league position, though, it is tough to say. Forest’s start to the season has been woeful and even if Cooper comes in and everything clicks, getting anywhere near the top six is a big ask.
It’ll be around mid-table and if that offers a platform to build on for next season, fans will be happy enough.