The story of Steve Cooper’s Nottingham Forest sacking

Marinakis has stuck with Cooper longer than anyone at the club imagined. The Greek billionaire has a fearsome reputation for being “trigger-happy” which he resents.

At Olympiacos, the Greek powerhouse he owns, it may be justified. At Forest, it is undeserved. He has high expectations and results have not been good enough in recent months. Since completing his takeover in May 2017, he has sacked Mark Warburton, Aitor Karanka, Martin O’Neill, Sabri Lamouchi and Chris Hughton.

None of them could really have any complaints – indeed, it could be argued that Lamouchi and Hughton, in particular, were given more than enough time to turn results around. Marinakis will feel the same applies to Cooper.

It was perhaps only the fear of a backlash from fans that allowed Cooper to limp on.

For the many supporters who pay money to watch their club every week, there has also been a feeling it was coming. It is possible to regard someone highly and have gratitude, yet also feel they have lost their way. The fanbase has become increasingly split, and Cooper did not deserve the situation to turn toxic. As has been well documented, he was very close to losing his job many times last season.

The 4-0 defeat at Leicester last October was the most notorious occasion when Rafael Benitez was lined up as a possible replacement. With Cooper’s future uncertain, Wolves and Southampton both reached out to intermediaries over potentially appointing him. A frantic few days ended in the Welshman signing a new £2.5 million a year contract.

There were many other crucial moments – after a 4-0 defeat at West Ham in February, Marinakis was seriously close to wielding the axe. After a 2-1 defeat at Leeds on April 4, even Cooper thought he was going.

Replacements were considered, including Patrick Vieira and even former Wolves manager Bruno Lage, but Cooper survived. He was aware of Forest’s work behind the scenes and used it to build a siege mentality at the club’s training ground.

‘I’ve given you the players’

Over the summer, he lost even more control over signings, as Forest were unhappy with some players he had previously recommended. Backroom staff were added that were club appointments.

He angered Marinakis on the opening day defeat at Arsenal with post-match comments about the club’s transfer business.

Cooper was frustrated when seven new players came in on deadline day, as he felt it left them playing catch-up to understand his methods. They were also picking up injuries after an unsettled pre-season. Yet in terms of pounds spent he had more investment in his squad than most managers in Europe’s top five leagues. Marinakis has spent more than £250 million on fees alone since promotion and has designs on Forest becoming a top-ten club.

He is an owner whose mindset is: “I’ve given you the players, now it’s over to you.”

Without question, he is demanding. Marinakis could not fathom tactical decisions, team selections, game management and the inability to cut out mistakes. There did not seem a consistent, identifiable style of play. When they were without forward Taiwo Awoniyi the entire set-up seemed to collapse and Cooper reverted to a low block.

Forest have won just two of their 28 away games since promotion, losing 19 of them.

Tension started to build in the dressing room. Scott McKenna, the Scotland international, was frozen out after the club made it clear he would not be getting a new contract. Cooper then had a major disagreement with Joe Worrall, the Forest captain. Worrall was informed on the morning of the game against Aston Villa on Nov 5 that he would not be in the matchday squad. Reacting angrily, Worrall did not attend the game as he did not feel in the right frame of mind.


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