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Steve Cooper led Phil Foden to World Cup glory, played a key role in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s progress at Liverpool and can end Nottingham Forest Premier League exile


Nottingham Forest are one of England’s most famous clubs, but they haven’t been in the Premier League for long.

But thanks to Steve Cooper, that could all be about to change…

Steve Cooper is one of the EFL’s best managers

Forest booked their place in the Championship play-off final at Wembley by beating Sheffield United on penalties.

Under Cooper, the Reds went from 17th place last season in just one game to reach the top flight for the first time in 23 years!

So what do we know about Cooper? talkSPORT.com takes a look at one of the hottest managers outside of the Premier League…

The formative years

Born in Pontypridd, Wales in 1979, Cooper started his football career as a defender in the Welsh Football Leagues.

Knowing that a playing career at the top level was unlikely, he began his youth coaching career aged just 19 with Wrexham, before joining Liverpool’s youth roster.

Cooper rose through the Merseyside ranks, becoming academy manager and then head of youth development before earning his UEFA professional license aged 27.

It was Cooper who played a vital role in the development of many top Liverpool players, including Raheem Sterling and Trent Alexander-Arnold who grew up under his guidance.

Steve Cooper led Phil Foden to World Cup glory, played a key role in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s progress at Liverpool and can end Nottingham Forest Premier League exile
Steve Cooper led England Under-17s to World Cup glory during his tenure

On top of the world

In 2014, Cooper was appointed England Under-16 manager, before taking charge of the Under-17s the following year.

It was there that he really announced himself to the world of football by leading the Three Lions to the final of the 2017 European Championships.

He went on to win the Under-17 World Cup with England after beating Spain 5-2 in the final, with help from players such as Phil Foden, Emile Smith Rowe, Conor Gallagher and Calum Hudson- Odoi.

Steve Cooper led Phil Foden to World Cup glory, played a key role in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s progress at Liverpool and can end Nottingham Forest Premier League exile
Steve Cooper secured back-to-back play-off finishes during his time at Swansea

Promotion Hunt

After winning the ultimate prize at youth level, Cooper was given his first opportunity in the senior ranks after being appointed head coach of Swansea City.

The 42-year-old spent two seasons with the Swans and painfully came close to promotion to the Premier League.

Swansea finished sixth in their first season in charge but were beaten by Brentford, before finishing fourth in 2021 and being propelled into the top flight by the Bees who defeated them at Wembley.

After leaving the club by mutual consent in July, it didn’t take long for Cooper to return to the game after being named Nottingham Forest boss in September 2021.

Since then, the struggling Reds have moved up the Championship table and find themselves one game away from securing promotion to the Premier League, which Cooper will seek to achieve on the third request.

Steve Cooper led Phil Foden to World Cup glory, played a key role in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s progress at Liverpool and can end Nottingham Forest Premier League exile
Sadly, his last game with Swansea was a play-off final loss to Brentford

Youth philosophies and development

Influenced by Barcelona B-team coach Jose Segura, with whom he worked at Liverpool, Cooper is renowned for being a manager who takes an aggressive possession-based approach to the game, which consists of his players show real bravery on the ball.

Another huge string to Cooper’s bow is his ability and willingness to work with young players to improve them, which has earned him a glowing reputation with the Premier League’s top flight.

As well as overseeing the development of Liverpool youngsters for several years, Cooper’s work with England has made him a go-to choice for Premier League bosses to send their most talented youngsters.

Chelsea have used Cooper and Swansea as a platform to develop players such as Marc Guehi and Conor Gallagher, while Liverpool have seen Rhian Brewster enjoy a successful loan spell in South Wales.

Steve Cooper led Phil Foden to World Cup glory, played a key role in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s progress at Liverpool and can end Nottingham Forest Premier League exile
Steve Cooper with ex-Liverpool youngster Rhian Brewster while at Swansea

All three players featured for Cooper in their World Cup win with England Under-17s, meaning his stock has continued to rise with the next generation of starts.

Since moving to Forest, Cooper has also worked with Manchester United’s James Garner and Middlesbrough’s Djed Spence, a player who would now attract the attention of clubs like Arsenal, Tottenham and AC Milan.

Another young starlet under his guidance is Brennan Johnson.

The 20-year-old is recognized as arguably the best prospect outside the Premier League, having scored 18 goals and created ten more for Forest in his maiden campaign at Championship level.

With clubs like Brentford reportedly keen, Forest hope Cooper can continue to work with Johnson and turn him into a star who can help the club enter the Premier League this season.


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