‘I never lacked belief’: Steve Cooper reflects on passing his toughest test as a manager after securing Premier League survival with Nottingham Forest’s 1-0 win over Arsenal
Steve Cooper has reflected on passing his toughest test as a coach after leading Nottingham Forest to safety with a game to spare.
A 1-0 win over Arsenal at the City Ground ensured Forest would have at least one more season of top-flight football, with Cooper tasting his moment of triumph. His future was in doubt at least twice but it vindicated the decision to stick with him, thanks to Taiwo Awoniyi’s first half strike.
‘This will always be my toughest coaching challenge,’ he said, referring to the club signing 30 new players throughout the season, following promotion a year ago. ‘I feel pride and a great sense of belonging in being part of something really special. My family and I will be forever indebted to these supporters.
‘A brilliant day for the players and supporters, and one we deserved. Let’s go to work. We can take this club to the next step now and that’s what we want to do.
‘I know coming into the season we will experience everything, wins, losses, good runs and bad runs. I know we have to be consistent. It’s really difficult for the players, a new group put together and the spirit we have tells you the characters we have in that dressing room. You can’t compare it to anything else.
Steve Cooper described staying up for a game as the ‘toughest challenge’ of his career on Saturday night
The manager’s shrewd management and tactical prowess ensured another year of top-flight football for the side
‘Staying in the league, signing a lot of players that we did and the injuries, which we didn’t shout about. For us to end up feeling like we have done alright this year is good because you can hear the noise, it’s really good.
‘It allows us to continue to build and that’s what I focus on. This club is very special and everyone has to be at a high level. This allows us to continue to grow and become the club we want to be.
‘I’m proud to work here. There is something unique about this club that captures the imagination in history and environment. The supporters have been incredible and me and my family are indebted to them. At a time when it is easy to give in to people our supporters did the opposite.’
Tuning out the outside noise is a key part in making sure Forest keeps their energy down
Cooper also insisted he has not lost faith in his side’s prospects. At times Forest looked short of Premier League quality but Cooper’s outstanding man-management, and settling on an effective tactical plan late in the season, got Forest over the line.
‘I never once lacked faith,’ Cooper said. ‘Sometimes it’s hard, pure Premier League brutality. We had two and a half months without winning a game but we were always in the mix.
‘I know this year I have to experience losing more than I wanted the first time, and I told myself that I have to be at my best after the losses.
‘I had to suffer and go through difficult times, because in recent years I had the opposite. To be a proper manager you have to face tough times. I told myself that I have to show that I can do it in difficult moments too. That’s what the club deserves and I always try to do that.’
News/Image Sources: Daily Mail