Nottingham Forest are starting to find their rhythm in the Premier League as they, alongside Manchester United, lead the rest of the division for the most points collected in 2023.
Steve Cooper’s players have had a lot of teething problems upon their return to the top-flight after a 24-year absence. Of course it is often difficult to make the step up from the second tier but their initial falterings would likely have had something to do with them signing almost any player they could get their hands on. In the last two transfer windows they have acquired 30 players, making the head coach’s task to bed them in and deliver results that much harder. But a great coach finds a way.
Even when things were not looking great, as they initially struggled to adjust to being back in the big time, the fans never wavered in their support and loyalty towards Cooper for what he did for them in the previous campaign, steering them from bottom of the Championship to play-off final victors.
We know that football is a results-driven business these days, so it was refreshing to see owner Evangelos Marinakis hand Cooper a new contract until 2025 back in October. It is a decision that is certainly paying off because the Tricky Trees are currently thriving having accumulated 11 points since the start of the calendar year. No other team has picked up more points. Not only have they been starting to grind out results on the pitch, the new players are starting to get to grips with their roles under the Welsh tactician.
Forest have won three of their five league matches in 2023 and their latest triumph against Leeds United was a gargantuan one in the battle for survival. Despite being under the cosh for large spells of the game, Cooper’s players showed their resilience and discipline to get the job done. There is a real sense of confidence among the players now and they will feel that they can go toe-to-toe with almost any side in the division.
Everyone liked to poke fun at the club for the volume of signings they made, with many insisting that they would still go down.
It’s fair to say that Forest are the ones laughing now though. They’re 13th in the table and are currently six points clear of Everton in the relegation zone. It seems as though the World Cup break came at a good time for the former Swansea City coach and his players that weren’t involved in Qatar; it gave them some valuable time to prepare for the restart - essentially serving as a second pre-season - and now we're seeing the results.
The management of Cooper has never been in question, he did an outstanding job at Swansea under difficult circumstances and he was a successful coach in the Football Association set-up with England's Under-17s. On Merseyside, when working with Liverpool's academy, he oversaw the development of players including Raheem Sterling, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Woodburn. The 43-year-old knows exactly how to hone a player’s abilities to enhance the team he's in charge of.
Cooper’s talents have seen him transform Forest from a struggling Championship team to one that could comfortably stay up in the top-flight.
The Garibaldi are getting better with each passing game and, given how much of a perfectionist their head coach is, they will want to keep building on their current form and hit new heights.
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