Seven games into the Championship season, Nottingham Forest were at the foot of the table. Chris Houghton had just been sacked, and incoming manager Steve Cooper’s main aim was simply to stay in the league. Who would have thought that just six months later, not only would Forest be in the play-off places, but actually get promoted?
Cooper’s tenure since being hired has been nothing short of miraculous. From the get-go there was something different about this Forest side: the grit. An unusual ability to come back from going behind harked back to the Clough days. Winning virtually every game from September to May, unheard of. From 24th to 3rd, surely impossible!
But somehow this side not only achieved this, but did so in style. One of the main reasons this could happen was not only Cooper, but the collective performances. Djed Spence, Brennan Johnson, Sam Worrall and James Garner were standout performers. From Cooper’s arrival to the last day of the season this core group of players propelled Forest upward with their efforts.
There have been plenty of turning points in the season but the main one was that the board backed Cooper in the January transfer window by bringing in Sam Surridge, Kenan Davis and Steve Cook. Adding both depth and experience to a relatively young squad – largely 24 years old and under – meant injuries to Grabban and other key players seemingly had little effect. Kenan in particular gave a new dimension to The Reds’ forward play with the vital ability to link midfield and attack.
Season over, their fate consigned to another playoff misery? No! Not this side, not these players
That being said, Forest can never do it the easy way. With promotion in their hands going into the Bournemouth game, the Cherries dealt the Nottingham side an excruciating blow. Season over, their fate consigned to another playoff misery? No! Not this side, not these players. Cooper’s unrelenting belief not only in his players, but also the staff, fans, and all of the club ensured heads didn’t drop and belief stayed firm.
Were there nerves? Of course. However, there was overriding faith. Following a tough tie with Sheffield United, Forest reached the play-off final. No matter what, they had already done this city proud, but could they go that one final step to ensure legendary status and premier league football?
Yes. They. Could! The 90 minutes at Wembley encapsulated what this team was about: hunger, bravery, never giving in. It was not the prettiest game, but it was a stoic one. Heroic defending ensured promotion (not to mention two penalty shouts being swatted away by both the referee and VAR). It is Forest’s year with luck being on their side, and this group of players lived the promotion dream. Could it have been easier? Sure. But can Forest do it any other way than the hard one? No. All that matters is that glorious Premier League status.
Not only are Nottingham Forest in the Premier League now, but I believe they will be for the foreseeable future.
Now a look towards the future. My firm belief is out of the three promoted sides that Forest are the most likely to stay up. Fulham and Bournemouth enjoyed dominating games the Championship, a luxury they will not be afforded in the top tier. It is likely going to take some time for both to acclimatise, if they even do. Forest’s style does not have to adjust, being based on fluid counter attacks and staunch defending. This is much like Brentford and Aston Villa’s setups, both of whom went up via the playoffs and have remained in the top flight. Not only are Nottingham Forest in the Premier League now, but I believe they will be for the foreseeable future.
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