Steve Cooper led Phil Foden to World Cup glory, played key role in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s Liverpool progression and can end Nottingham Forest Premier League exile
Nottingham Forest are one of the most famous clubs in England but they haven’t been in the Premier League for a long time.
But thanks to Steve Cooper, that could all be about to change…
Forest booked their place in the Championship play-off final at Wembley by beating Sheffield United on penalties.
Under Cooper, the Reds have taken themselves from finishing 17th last term to within one game of reaching the top flight for the first time in 23 years!
So what do we know about Cooper? talkSPORT.com take 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 career in football as a defender in the Welsh football leagues.
Knowing that a playing career at the highest level wasn’t likely, he started his youth coaching career at the age of just 19 with Wrexham, before joining Liverpool’s youth set-up.
Cooper progressed through the ranks on Merseyside, becoming academy manager and then head of youth development before earning his UEFA Pro Licence at 27.
It was Cooper who played an integral role in the development of numerous high-profile Liverpool players, most notably Raheem Sterling and Trent Alexander-Arnold who grew under his watch.
On top of the world
In 2014, Cooper was appointed as England under-16s manager, before taking charge of the under-17s the following year.
It was there that he really announced himself to the footballing world as he led the Three Lions to the final of the 2017 European Championships.
He then won the under-17 World Cup with England after beating Spain 5-2 in the final, with the help of players such as Phil Foden, Emile Smith Rowe, Conor Gallagher and Calum Hudson-Odoi.
After winning the ultimate prize at youth level, Cooper was handed his first opportunity in the senior ranks after being named Swansea City head coach.
The 42-year-old spent two seasons with the Swans and came painfully close to earning promotion back to the Premier League.
Swansea finished sixth in his first season in charge, but were beaten by Brentford, before finishing fourth in 2021 and being pipped to spot in 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 get back into the game after being named Nottingham Forest boss in September 2021.
Since then, the struggling Reds have flown up the Championship table and find themselves one game from securing promotion to the Premier League, something that Cooper will be looking to achieve at the third time of asking.
Philosophies and youth development
Influenced by Barcelona B team coach Jose Segura whom he worked with at Liverpool, Cooper is renowned for being a manager who adopts a possession-based, aggressive approach to the game that consists of his players showing 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, something that has earned him a glowing reputation with the Premier League’s elite.
As well as overseeing Liverpool’s youth set-up 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 used Cooper and Swansea as a platform to develop players such as Marc Guehi and Conor Gallagher, while Liverpool saw Rhian Brewster enjoy a fruitful loan spell in South Wales.
All three players played for Cooper during their World Cup victory with England under-17s, meaning that his stock continued to rise with the next generation of starts.
Since moving to Forest, Cooper has also been working with James Garner of Manchester United and Djed Spence from Middlesbrough, a player who is now said to be attracting the interest of clubs like Arsenal, Tottenham and AC Milan.
Another young starlet under his leadership is Brennan Johnson.
The 20-year-old is renowned as arguably the hottest prospect outside of the Premier League having scored 18 and created ten more for Forest in his first campaign at Championship level.
With clubs such as Brentford said to be keen, Forest will be hoping that Cooper can continue to work with Johnson and turn him into a star who can help the club into the Premier League this season.