Nottingham Forest’s off-pitch chaos has dealt a hard hand to Steve Cooper

<span>Photo: Joe Giddens/PA</span>” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/″ src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/″0489/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

It’s quite impressive that Steve Cooper lasted so long at the City Ground, considering what preceded him in the era of Evangelos Marinakis. The 19-month Cooper-Nottingham Forest era has seen them go from relegation candidates in the Championship to the Premier League, where they are fighting for survival.

In another week of backstage chaos ahead of Manchester United’s visit to Sunday, Filippo Giraldi was sacked from his role as sporting director after six months. The Italian’s downfall was a bad January transfer window in which seven other players, following last summer’s massive influx, moved to Forest. The new signings, on the whole, failed to make an impact and instead destabilized a team that had regained form.

Ross Wilson has arrived from the Rangers to replace Giraldi but with the new title of chief football officer. Wilson has been well regarded since his days at Southampton, but his spell in Scotland has been seen as less successful. He hopes his work focuses on recruiting players for the Premier League, rather than trying to sell high-wage players after relegation.

Related: Nottingham Forest sack sporting director Filippo Giraldi after six months

It was a glorious tale of footballing romance as Cooper led the side from the foot of the second tier to victory in a playoff final at Wembley, but the speed of success was almost too much for a club that had been out of the top flight for 23 years . Fissures between the manager, recruitment team and owners began to form soon after, each pulling in a different direction to assemble a team capable of staying in the Premier League. Since then a sense of instability has been buzzing in the background on the banks of the Trento.

Cooper has seemed to be on the brink for extended periods, first at the start of the season, until he surprisingly signed a new contract in October, and more recently when Marinakis released a statement saying: “The results and performances they need to improve immediately.” The first half at Aston Villa was better than their previous defeat by Leeds, but ended in a 2-0 defeat which dropped them into the bottom three. Manchester United will be another tough test.

Other managers were approached to replace Cooper. The list of people related to the job includes Nuno Espírito Santo, Patrick Vieira, Rafa Benítez, Jorge Sampaoli, Sean Dyche and Bruno Lage. Sure, some of these suggestions may not have been accurate, but that level of speculation, however little attention Cooper himself pays to it, isn’t a good thing for anyone. Instability seeps into a club.

At Marinakis’ other club, Olympiakos, they are now the fourth manager of the season, a sign that continuity is not high on the agenda in Athens. Short-term solutions are often sought to solve problems perceived to exist. George Syrianos, as Forest’s head of recruiting, and Andy Scott, as chief scout, were sacked after the plethora of summer arrivals did not materialize immediately, while a key architect of the promotion, the managing director, Dane Murphy, is was pushed aside and then left. He has yet to be replaced.

The team stabilized and improved at the end of October, suffering two defeats in 11 games, away to Arsenal and Manchester United, picking up 19 points. Since January’s signings came to the fore, only three points out of 27 available have been earned, hence the demise of Giraldi and increased control of Cooper.

There is also uncertainty in the youth academy, with director of football development Gary Brazil due to expire in the summer. Brazil is credited with bringing in Matty Cash, Ben Brereton Díaz and Oliver Burke, among others, and two key members of Cooper’s team, Ryan Yates and Brennan Johnson. His methods have resulted in tens of millions of players being sold to Forest and the under-18s reached the final of the FA Youth Cup last season. He is a popular man in Nottingham and, if he were to leave as planned, he would be seen as a major blow to the youth set-up.

Cooper is also loved in Nottingham and deserves abundant praise for what he did last season and for keeping things together this one. The former Liverpool youth team manager is learning on the spot in his first year as Premier League manager. Mistakes were bound to be made, exacerbated by relegation fears, when any team making the playoffs would have been the natural candidates to go down.

Cooper’s popularity with fans was demonstrated by the response when rumors that he was going to be fired and this extended his time in charge. Being under constant pressure from the owners to produce the products in what is arguably the toughest league in world football is unsustainable. Cooper and the fans want to be in the Premier League for games like Sunday’s Manchester United match at a sold-out City Ground. For many though, this season will be remembered for everything that happened off the pitch. Cooper and Nottingham deserved better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *