Steve Cooper in danger of becoming merciless Premier League's latest casualty

Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper after the Premier League match at King Power Stadium - Tim Goode/PA Wire
Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper after the Premier League match at King Power Stadium - Tim Goode/PA Wire

It was just over a year ago when Steve Cooper’s revival of Nottingham Forest, the famous old club with such a rich tradition, started to gather momentum.

After inheriting a team marooned in the Championship swamp, he grabbed the perennial underachievers by the shirt collar and gave them an almighty shake.

In emotional, stirring scenes at Wembley in May, Cooper wrote his name into Forest’s history books as the man who finally ended their exile from the Premier League.

What a difference a few months can make. Cooper’s position is now under serious threat and he is in danger of becoming the latest casualty of this merciless division, where patience is quickly replaced by panic.

“Sacked in the morning” was the chant from Leicester’s supporters towards the end of the first-half, following an outstanding performance from a team who had not won all season.

In James Maddison, Leicester had the best player on the pitch by some distance and it seems utterly bizarre that he is still overlooked by England manager Gareth Southgate.

Forest, meanwhile, played like a bunch of strangers which, of course, a lot of them still are.

Jesse Lingard - REUTERS/Craig Brough
Jesse Lingard - REUTERS/Craig Brough

After a remarkable summer transfer window in which 23 new players have arrived at a cost of £150 million, it was always going to be a challenge for Cooper to mould them into a competitive and cohesive team.

He has an excellent reputation as a coach, particularly within the Football Association after his time with England’s Under-17s, yet has never operated in this division before.

Cooper has had to learn on the job while battling to work out his best team.

It is the Welshman who will now be under intense pressure, but many of those new arrivals have done him little favours.

Cooper would reasonably expect players with experience of the Champions League, such as Jesse Lingard and Renan Lodi, to perform far better than they have.

Morgan Gibbs-White was the club record capture at £25 million from Wolves and signed to influence games in the way Maddison did here, but was very quiet.

Time is a luxury no manager can rely on. When Forest’s owner Evangelos Marinakis scans the league table and sees his team bottom of the pile it will be regarded as unacceptable.

When an owner invests so much money and has designs on making Forest a regular fixture in this division, he will expect much more.

It is why Cooper will probably follow Scott Parker, Thomas Tuchel and Bruno Lage as the latest manager to be dismissed.

This was their fifth defeat in a row, and arguably their worst performance of the season. There was some surprise that Cooper even made it this far.

Before the international break, the nature of the losses against two other newly promoted teams, Bournemouth and Fulham, triggered deep concern in the boardroom.

To lose a Midlands derby in such embarrassing fashion was the last thing Cooper needed, with frustration already high.

If the decision is made, Forest’s fans will be bitterly disappointed. Cooper was the man who galvanised a club and city, delivering a promotion they thought would never happen.

They chanted his name as time ticked away, in what appeared a message to the club’s board.

Cooper will be highly sought after if he does depart, with Wolves likely to place him under consideration.

He is also proven in the Championship, with three play-off finishes in a row, and will be in demand by many.

It will be a painful reminder that the fortunes of a football manager can change in the blink of an eye. Just ask Brendan Rodgers.