Steve Cooper and an unexpected turn of events worthy of Roald Dahl | Football


Following a fifth consecutive defeat that left Nottingham Forest rock bottom of the Premier League table on Monday, one national daily exclusively reported that the offer of a new and improved contract for their manager Steve Cooper had been withdrawn. As votes of confidence in football managers go, it wasn’t exactly on a par with that time Leicester announced they would like to “make absolutely clear [our] unwavering support for First Team Manager, Claudio Ranieri” before sacking him less than a fortnight later.

Since their most recent defeat, Cooper’s imminent dismissal has been written about and discussed at length in newspapers, on podcasts and phone-ins and assorted other platforms, with many pondering the apparent injustice of moving so quickly to bin off a man who had performed a minor miracle in returning the club to the Premier League after more than two decades in exile, before being asked to keep them there with a brand new squad featuring so many different new players that the initiation ceremonies in which they are asked to sing in front of their new team-mates took far longer than a Eurovision song contest.

After several days of speculation, Forest’s owners released the inevitable statement, prompting reporters to scramble in a bid to cut-and-paste the news that Cooper had left his role at the club, been thanked for his hard work and would always be welcome at the City Ground. Except in a turn of events of so unexpected it might have been written by Roald Dahl and featured a housewife who bludgeoned her philandering husband with a frozen leg of lamb she subsequently served up for dinner to the policemen searching her home for the murder weapon, Forest announced they had offered Cooper a new and improved deal until 2025.

“It is now important that our focus is solely on football,” droned a statement from on high. “As a group we are all concentrated and will do everything we can to help the team move up the league table and once again demonstrate our qualities that led us to the Premier League.” Having been linked with the Southampton job, that like his own, isn’t yet actually available, Cooper announced he was pleased to have been offered a new deal but preached caution that it meant he might lead Forest from bottom to top of the table like he did last year.

“If there is talk about [me being sacked] it can stop,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we are going to win the next match and everything is going to be OK. It has put an end to the questioning and that is great.” With news of what could prove to be the most expensive vote of confidence now made public and a home game against Aston Villa to come on Monday, the uncertainty surrounding Cooper’s future has at least been nipped in the bud for another three days.


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Jürgen Klopp throwing out some tricks in training.
Jürgen Klopp throwing out some tricks in training. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/AFP/Getty Images

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A statue of Jack Leslie is unveiled at a ceremony at Plymouth’s Home Park.
A statue of Jack Leslie is unveiled at a ceremony at Plymouth’s Home Park. Photograph: Dave Rowntree/PPAUK/Shutterstock

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Fans at St James’ Park in 1960; England debutant John Fashanu at Wembley in 1989; and some of the 3,039 crowd at Selhurst Park in January 1993.
Left to right: Fans at St James’ Park in 1960; England debutant John Fashanu at Wembley in 1989; and some of the 3,039 crowd at Selhurst Park in January 1993. Composite: PA Images/Alamy; Mark Leech/Getty Images; Mirrorpix/Getty Images

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