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By Paul Martin
Steve Cooper should be named the LMA’s Manager of the Year if he succeeds in guiding Nottingham Forest back to the Premier League, according to former City Ground favourite Stuart Pearce.
Forest were a top flight club for 11 of the left-back’s 12 seasons at Forest but have spent just one season among the elite since Pearce’s departure in 1997.
Pearce was later one of a seemingly endless string of managers who were unable to turn the tide on the Trent but he believes Cooper is the man to take them back to the promised land.
The upturn in league fortunes combined with famous FA Cup wins over Arsenal and Leicester City have made it a campaign to remember and Pearce likened the atmosphere to that which swept the city during his heyday under Brian Clough.
“Steve Cooper has done a wonderful job,” he said. “Bear in mind Forest took one point from the first seven games, to see where they are now in the play-off situation is fantastic.
“In the cup run, they’ve had a couple of fantastic results that have really ignited the city.
“The atmosphere in the ground was almost a throwback to many years ago and some of the days I remember playing in for the club.
“If they could get promoted, it would be an absolutely incredible achievement. I would honestly say that if he does get them up, he probably deserves to be manager of the year.”
Pearce was at Craven Cottage on Tuesday as Forest gave their hopes a huge boost by beating already-promoted Fulham, a week on from spending a day in more modest surroundings at Thame United FC as part of his role as a Pitching In ambassador.
The 60-year-old has not lost sight of his non-league roots and hailed the depth of talent beneath the EFL – something Forest fans are well aware of, with Joe Lolley and Sam Surridge among those to have shone at non-league level before climbing through the ranks.
“Without the non-league scene and the bottom of the pyramid, there wouldn’t be the top end of the pyramid,” he said.
“Everyone loves a story of a player coming through the non-league scene, [Jamie] Vardy certainly a few years ago captured the headlines when he made that journey to become a big star in the Premier League.
“I work with a couple of players now in Michail Antonio and Craig Dawson that have come through non-league themselves there’s a real collection of players that have honed their trade in the local community and gone right the way through.”
Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million-pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. For more details see: https://entaingroup.com/sustainability/pitching-in/