Nottingham Forest’s long-awaited promotion to the Premier League means that next season the top flight will feature eight British managers, a high figure in comparison to recent years. Scott Parker and Steve Cooper will now join the top flight and the latter in particular has drawn huge praise this season, having taken the Reds from the bottom of the Championship to the Premier League.
Captain Joe Worrall lavished his manager with praise after the full-time whistle at Wembley. “I keep using the expression ‘like a whipped dog’. If you treat any dog with kindness, then they become a nice dog,” Worrall said when asked what the manager had changed since his arrival.
“If you mistreat one, then they’re aggressive, and we were, we’ve been a mistreated team. He’s come in and he’s given us that hope, given us that belief and he’s just been so nice. He’s just killed us with kindness and the fans absolutely adore him, absolutely adore him.”
This may be Cooper’s crowning glory, but his short managerial career so far has been outstanding. Having plied his trade in England’s youth set-up, he won the U17 World Cup with the likes of Phil Foden, Marc Guehi and Morgan Gibbs-White in the team, before getting his first club job with Swansea City.
In back-to-back seasons they reached the play-offs, only to be beaten by one of the finest Championship teams in Brentford. That heart-breaking Wembley defeat last term clearly hurt Cooper, but now he has vanquished those demons under the arch.
The Premier League will provide a different challenge, but Cooper can learn from a fellow Brit. Graham Potter has received huge praise for the work he has done at Brighton, as the Seagulls secured a top half finish this season and his style of play has allowed them to overachieve. Just like Cooper’s teams, they are more than the sum of their parts yet Potter’s route to the top was also less than conventional.
Seven years at Ostersund in Sweden provided the perfect education as he took them from the fourth tier to the Europa League, before Swansea once again provided a relatively unknown boss with the chance to work in the Championship. A tenth place finish and an FA Cup quarter-final was enough for Brighton to pay £3m for his services after just one season, and it's been the best money they’ve spent in the top flight.
Compare and contrast these two talented coaches with two other bosses in the Premier League, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, two former England internationals that have been given jobs in the Premier League with relatively little managerial experience by comparison.
Gerrard won the league with Rangers, which was a great achievement before being tempted by Villa, while Lampard’s one season at Derby ended with a play-off final defeat - before he was given the Chelsea job. Those managers have not been disastrous by any means, but it’s a very different route to the top than Potter and Cooper have taken.
Next season, we will be able to properly judge the four managers and although they will have variable budgets, it’s not outlandish to predict that Potter and Cooper will outperform Gerrard and Lampard. They’ve worked in tougher conditions, won promotion in their careers and by all accounts, have drastically improved the clubs they have joined.
The same cannot be said for the former England duo, despite their standing and reputation in the game. Villa are spending big again this summer which will only increase the expectations on the former Liverpool captain, while Lampard will actually have to show he can improve a team, rather than finish in the same position they were when he took over. Everton staying up, with that squad, isn’t all that impressive.
When all is said and done, there are different ways to skin a cat. Not all iconic players make good managers, but it's great to see managers flourish in the top flight without that leg up. Steve Cooper joins the party next season and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him follow in Potter’s footsteps.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change