To many, it is the ultimate poisoned chalice. Nottingham Forest have become one of English football’s true basket cases in recent years, with managers being thrown out more often than bin bags. Fourteen bosses have departed the City Ground in the last 10 years, making them a figure of fun to many rival fans.
But on Tuesday they announced that Steve Cooper is their new manager after last week’s dismissal of Chris Hughton. If you’re of a mind that Forest is a bit of a managerial black hole you’re probably wondering why Cooper would sign up for the sort of madness Hughton, Martin O’Neill, Sabri Lamouchi, Mark Warburton and more have been party to in recent years.
Under the ownership of first Fawaz Al-Hasawi and now Evangelos Marinakis, Forest have been anything but a long-term concern. Their squad has been neglected to the point where success would be a huge surprise rather than the expectation. This is a club which remains a massive name in club football, but also one which is now 22 years removed from their last top-flight season and is better known these days for its short-termism and cack-handedness in decision making than it is for its place among the greats of English football.
What Cooper is taking on is not the club which won a League championship in 1978 and followed up with back-to-back European titles. This is not the club of Brian Clough anymore. The legendary boss led Forest to a 16-year stay in the top flight – matching a club record – and oversaw a reign which brought nine of the 11 pieces of major silverware they have achieved in their entire history.
The modern-day Forest sits rock bottom of the Championship even after winning their first game of the season under Steven Reid at Huddersfield Town on Saturday. Their squad is unbalanced, which is hardly surprising given that it has been built in multiple different visions under countless managers with alternative views on the future of the first-team setup.
But yet, despite all of this, it is easy to see why Cooper would want to be a part of it all. With the England under-16s and under-17s, and most recently at Swansea City, Cooper has built a reputation for playing good football and trusting his players on the ball. He is a young manager with a bright future, and showed with the run to the play-off final with Swansea last term that he can take on a project and make it successful.
And at Forest he has the chance to do great things with a big football club. Sure, he will be the 23rd manager to attempt to bring the glory days back to Forest since Clough retired in 1993, but the appeal is obvious. Anyone with a decent track record, with enthusiasm and belief in his abilities, would believe in themselves to be the one to turn things around.
At some point somewhere down the line, somebody will make a success of things at Nottingham Forest. They just have to, as it’s too big a club not to make a return at some point in the future. And Steve Cooper clearly believes he can be that person who can get it right and turn things around. That probably won't happen this season, with safety the only concern in 2021-22 - hence Betfred's valuation of 20/1 for them to finish in the top six - but in the coming campaigns they can begin to right the ship.
Cooper is clearly a brave man, but he also knows this might be his best chance to really make a name for himself as one of the current game’s great young managers.
Nottingham Forest deserve a boss with a real vision who can make them a success again. Why can’t that be Steve Cooper?