Former Blackpool and Crystal Palace boss Ian Holloway has accused Steve Cooper of walking away from Swansea City the minute previous key men Andre Ayew left the club, speaking on the EFL on Quest programme.
41-year-old Cooper, who was appointed at the City Ground last Tuesday after Chris Hughton’s dismissal, left his role in South Wales in late July amid his concerns about the direction in which the club was heading in.
At the time, the Swans had lost key forward Andre Ayew, who left the club on the expiration of his contract after the second-tier side’s loss to Brentford in the play-off final four months ago.
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During the 2020/21 campaign, the Ghanaian scored 17 goals and registered four assists in 47 competitive appearances, leaving a huge void in Swansea’s first team after his departure.
With club captain Matt Grimes also reported to be on the verge of an exit in late July amid interest from Fulham, Cooper decided to walk away from the job and was unemployed all of a sudden after previously being linked with the Crystal Palace vacancy during the summer.
He now finds himself back in the Championship with Nottingham Forest, who currently sit 22nd and find themselves two points adrift from safety after his debut match against Millwall at the weekend.
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Forest fans will have high hopes after seeing their new boss guide second-tier rivals Swansea to consecutive play-off finishes during his two seasons at the Swansea.com Stadium – but Ian Holloway is slightly more sceptical of the 41-year-old.
“There is something wrong there, I think Chris Hughton has been a fantastic manager, they have gone through a lot of money and paid a lot of money to certain players and not sorted it out.
“For me, Steve’s had two seasons with an ex-Premier League team with their parachute payments and he left the minute their striker who was on about 70 grand per week (Andre Ayew) left.
“He’s on trial now. He’s picked up this club, they’re in a terrible position, good luck to him.”
This is slightly harsh on Cooper, who did a decent enough job in his first role as a senior manager. Although he was coaching elite players during his time with Liverpool and England’s youth teams, senior football is a different kettle of fish.
After guiding them to a remarkable sixth-place finish in 2019/20, something another very capable manager in Graham Potter was unable to do during his time in South Wales, the Welshman built on his first season by helping to cement their place as a promotion-chasing team and clinching fourth last term.
At the end of the day, the Swans were only 90 minutes away from Premier League football just a few months ago despite selling some of their most valuable assets in recent years.
He may have had Andre Ayew at his disposal – but the Ghanaian was only one piece of the jigsaw and despite criticisms over his style of play, he was able to get the best out of many players to be able to guide them to consecutive finishes in the top six.
This doesn’t guarantee success with a Nottingham Forest side who had severely underperformed under an experienced man in Chris Hughton over the past year – but the former Swansea boss seems like a better fit at the City Ground and with the players he has available – it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him do well in the East Midlands.