Nottingham Forest news: The inside story of dead man walking Steve Cooper’s new deal


It’s been quite a return to the Premier League for Nottingham Forest, who certainly haven’t gone about their business quietly since earning promotion from the Championship back in May.

In fact, since winning the play-off final and reclaiming their spot in the top flight for the first time in 23 years, there has hardly been a dull day for Steve Cooper’s side.

It’s not all gone to plan either – in fact most of it hasn’t –  with Forest now bottom of the league after suffering a 4-0 defeat at Leicester despite a summer where they signed 22 players with an outlay of £150million.

Steve Cooper was handed a shock new three-year deal as Nottingham Forest boss on Friday

Cooper is a favourite among fans after guiding them back into the Premier League for the first time in 23 years after winning the Championship play-off final back in May (pictured above)

Cooper is a favourite among fans after guiding them back into the Premier League for the first time in 23 years after winning the Championship play-off final back in May (pictured above)

Yet an incredible week that seemed to start with Cooper under pressure has ended with the fan favourite penning his name to a stunning three-year contract despite huge concerns over his future prior to his deal being announced on Friday. 

A week ago there was already concerns high up at Forest over Cooper’s tenure and intermediaries working on the club’s behalf were sounding out potential replacements for the Welshman.

Rafa Benitez was among the names thrown in but the Spaniard was holding out for a better placed club. Xabi Alonso was another big name discussed via intermediaries but he has since taken charge at German side Bayer Leverkusen.

Rafa Benitez was considered to replace Cooper at the City Ground

Xabi Alonso was another Nottingham Forest target

Rafa Benitez (left) and Xabi Alonso were both considered to replace Cooper at the City Ground

Forest slumped to the bottom of the table on Monday after a 4-0 loss at rivals Leicester City

Forest slumped to the bottom of the table on Monday after a 4-0 loss at rivals Leicester City

To complicate matters, owner Evangelos Marinakis wasn’t even convinced of sacking his manager. On the contrary, he was considering whether to offer Cooper, still popular with fans despite their poor start, a new contract amid rumoured interest from Southampton. 

With one win and a draw from the opening seven Premier League games, Marinakis met Cooper for dinner on Saturday evening in a Knightsbridge hotel and tried to get an understanding of what was going wrong given the huge investment placed into the club during the summer.

He underlined the importance of Monday’s game with Leicester in what was not just a fierce East Midlands derby but also against the only side below them in the table who had yet to win this term.

Marinakis, wary of what was going wrong with his investment, considered another appointment, one of a sporting director to help audit the senior football positions at the club.

Come Monday night, the owner and his son Miltiadis Marinakis, who has played a key role in some of Forest’s signings, watch on as the goals fly in for Leicester. 

Staff behind the scenes at Forest were left convinced at the end of the game that Cooper was to be sacked. A meeting called for Tuesday morning did little to banish that notion.

Many staff were convinced Cooper would depart after the defeat as he waves to supporters following the full time whistle at the King Power Stadium

Many staff were convinced Cooper would depart after the defeat as he waves to supporters following the full time whistle at the King Power Stadium

Meanwhile, Cooper told the media he was not thinking about his own position but underlined the challenges facing the players.

Forest's band of new signings have failed to see them adapt to a higher level this term

Forest’s band of new signings have failed to see them adapt to a higher level this term

He said: ‘Relationships and stuff are built over time, and it’s not what we have. It’s a unique situation, and we are trying to face up to it and get through. This is a fresh challenge for us. Some of the guys have only met each other these last couple of weeks.’

Tuesday morning saw Cooper’s position under discussion but Forest’s owners were also asking questions about the roles of chief executive Dane Murphy, head of recruitment George Syrianos and scout Andy Scott.

Indications around the club appeared to suggest at least one could face the sack possibly even before Cooper as highly emotional discussions went on.

Cooper’s position started to become a little more secure when Forest became concerned there was no stand out candidate to succeed him. It was also highlighted that some players are not performing to their level and the speculation regarding the manager’s future affects attitudes.

After a rollercoaster day it was decided that nothing will change before Monday’s upcoming game against Aston Villa.

Yet just a day later on Wednesday, Filippo Giraldi, the former Watford technical director was confirmed as Forest’s new sporting director.

Filippo Giraldi was previously chief scout at Watford

Andy Scott (left) is set to have his future discussed as chief scout following Giraldi's arrival

Andy Scott (right) is set to have his future discussed as chief scout following the arrival of Filippo Giraldi (left) as sporting director at the club

The players are on a second day off, bar those who have come in for treatment.

Just days after considering axing Cooper, Marinakis made an incredible U-turn by deciding to offer Cooper a new contract to settle the rising speculation he fears could hinder performances further.

Meanwhile in the background, Giraldi comes in and introduces himself to figures around the club. He begins his process of auditing the roles of others.

By Friday, Forest draft a press release and confirm Cooper’s new deal until 2025. Players are left surprised with some only hearing for the first time as they come off the training field. Cooper confirms the news at his 1.30pm press conference.  

Cooper says: ‘It’s good there’s clarity to the contract situation,’ he said. ‘There have been a lot of questions over the last weeks and this puts an end to that.

Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis had a late change of heart over axeing Steve Cooper

Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis had a late change of heart over axeing Steve Cooper

‘It’s given us and me a real chance to show how good we can be. We’re all feeling the difference of being in the Premier League and it’s exciting. That is the real motivation, to get through this difficult run. The incredible support from the fans that make me even hungrier but we’ve got to do better.

‘Everyone knows how much I’m loving my time here and how important it is to me. My real focus is about winning on Monday against Aston Villa. We are on a poor run and we can’t hide from it.

‘It’s brilliant to sign but nothing has really changed in terms of my work, and making sure every day we try to be ready for the next game. We have to do better, the fans deserve better, and that’s really where my focus is.

‘I’ll give all I’ve got to try to succeed and there are some things that need sorting in terms of results and performances.’

But the Welshman remains under pressure and will be assessed over the next three games

But the Welshman remains under pressure and will be assessed over the next three games

Chief executive Dane Murphy is also continuing in his role while Lee Charnley continues as a consultant.

However, a crazy week at the club may have seen another chapter close, but this book is far from complete during a mad start to the season.

Despite the new contract, Cooper’s position as manager is still not entirely safe. Top chiefs at Forest believe they still may have to be forced into a change if results continue to get worse over the next three games.

It’s yet another twist in what is becoming an astonishing turn of events at the City Ground, and will do little to ease any uncertainty heading into another massive Midlands encounter with Aston Villa as the club target three points to climb out of the bottom three.



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