Steve Cooper is thriving despite dealing with 21 players leaving, several injuries and one of the most volatile owners in the game… as Jake Bidwell explains how the manager’s success at Nottingham Forest is down to his ‘confidence in his plans’
- Steve Cooper has managed to stay calm amid the storm at Nottingham Forest
- As it stands, Nottingham Forest are sitting 13th in the Premier League standings
- When fans congratulate him in the street, it makes him even more determined
With 30 players joining, 21 leaving, several injuries and one of the most volatile owners in the game in Evangelos Marinakis, it has been virtually impossible to stay calm amid the storm at Nottingham Forest this season.
Thankfully for the two-time European Cup winners, one person has achieved it: manager Steve Cooper. The Welshman is one of the most highly-rated coaches in the game yet perhaps his greatest asset is his ability to keep his head when all around him are losing theirs.
Ever since he arrived at the City Ground, Cooper has placed great pressure upon himself to succeed. When fans congratulate him in the street, it makes him even more determined to deliver. During last season’s remarkable march from bottom of the Championship to promotion via the play-offs, Cooper’s behaviour in public was that of a manager whose team had spent the season bobbing along in mid-table.
It has been the same this term, too. Cooper could have been sacked after the 4-0 defeat at Leicester on October 3. Four days later, he was handed a new three-year contract. He took it all in his stride with the same steady manner that has worked magic at Forest since his arrival in September 2021.
Jake Bidwell played under Cooper at Swansea from 2019-2021, when they fell short in the Championship play-offs in both seasons. The 29-year-old, now involved in another play-off push with Coventry, believes Cooper’s secret is his absolute confidence in his plans.
Steve Cooper has managed to stay calm amid the storm at Nottingham Forest this season
The 43-year-old manager has dealt with 30 players joining, 21 leaving, several injuries
Nottingham Forest have one of the most volatile owners in the game in Evangelos Marinakis (R)
‘He has got a process he works to,’ Bidwell told Sportsmail. It’s not just a plan stuck together.
‘He started his coaching career early and he has worked incredibly hard in that period to fine-tune his process. He has so much confidence in it that if he sticks to it, he can tweak and change in small ways.
‘His message is: ‘This is the plan and it will work if we stick to it. We can add to it at the right time.’ You don’t start from scratch at training every Monday
‘I had my job and I knew exactly what it was. Nine times out of 10 if we lost a game it was because we did not carry out the plan.
‘On a Monday you would go to training knowing exactly how the week would look, what the schedule would be and what you would be doing on certain days.
‘It’s not based only on results. He has that much confidence in the way he sees the game because of the work he has put in over the years, and his knowledge of the game is very good.
‘Nothing shocked us. He had always done that much homework that he could predict exactly what was going to happen in a certain game.
‘He signed me from Queens Park Rangers and took my game to the next level. I admire and respect him greatly and I hope he keeps Forest in the Premier League. I am pretty confident he will.’
Cooper, however, would not countenance such optimism. He can be maddening to question because he is reluctant to express wider judgements about his team’s season.
Ever since he arrived at the club, Cooper has placed great pressure upon himself to succeed
When fans congratulate him in the street, it makes him even more determined to deliver
The moment Cooper drives away from a match, he is reviewing it in his mind, filing away what he enjoyed and what displeased him. Once he reaches his base in the East Midlands, Cooper will watch the game again.
He was delighted when Forest upgraded the pitches at their training ground just outside Nottingham, and improved the dressing room areas at the City Ground. Though the 43-year-old has used the old-school atmosphere at Forest’s home to great effect, he advocates modernisation wherever possible.
Hard to think, then, that Cooper was in severe danger of dismissal only five months ago. Now as Sportsmail revealed on Thursday, Forest may face a fight to keep him in the summer, with at least two clubs placing him high on their list if they make a change.
Forest hope Cooper’s future is with them and anyone who has spent time with Cooper knows his love for the club is genuine. What comes next is uncertain but one thing is for sure: Cooper is not a man to take snap decisions.