Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper is paying the price for club splashing out £137m to assemble a squad of strangers


WHEN Nottingham Forest became the first British club to pay £1million for a player, many people in football thought they had lost their mind.

Fast forward 43 years from Trevor Francis’ arrival at the City Ground and the same accusations are being hurled at Forest following their unprecedented recruitment drive.

A whopping 22 players arrived at the City Ground this summer

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A whopping 22 players arrived at the City Ground this summerCredit: REX
Nottingham Forest chief Steve Cooper has yet to get his new recruits to gel

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Nottingham Forest chief Steve Cooper has yet to get his new recruits to gelCredit: REX

They have splurged £137.3million this summer and so many new faces have arrived at the Tricky Trees since winning last season’s Championship play-offs that it’s almost impossible to keep count of them all.

Serge Aurier became their 22nd signing following promotion when he arrived as a free agent from Villarreal six days after the transfer window had closed. And back-up keeper Adnan Kanuric soon followed to take it to 23.

But if there are a couple more who have slipped unnoticed down the back of the sofa, no one could possibly be surprised.

So it’s little wonder that Steve Cooper’s team have been playing like a bunch of strangers as they have struggled to adapt to life back in the Premier League.

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Defeat at local rivals Leicester on Monday would leave them bottom of the table with just four points from their opening eight fixtures.

But don’t forget that they were bottom of the Championship when Cooper replaced Chris Hughton this time last year.

So no one should write them off just yet, despite their early difficulties.

But the problem for Cooper is that the chaos isn’t just confined to the revolving dressing-room door.

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Because from the very top down it’s almost impossible to keep track of exactly who is calling the shots.

Excitable owner Evangelos Marinakis has certainly been making his presence felt, while his son Miltiadis has been a key player in dealing with agents during transfer negotiations.

Chief exec Dane Murphy is the man credited with headhunting miracle worker Cooper from Swansea but the club have recently brought in Mike Ashley’s former Newcastle sidekick Lee Charnley in an ‘advisory capacity’.

Throw a director of football, a chief operating officer, a head of football operations, a head of football administration and as many as four different media advisors into the mix and you can see why Cooper’s head would be in a spin.

Even the new contract which was widely anticipated as the manager’s reward for winning promotion has yet to materialise.

And with less than a year remaining on his current deal, it wouldn’t cost Forest a fortune should they decide to pay him off.

Yet in spite of his team’s poor start to their first top-flight campaign since 1999, Cooper’s stock has actually risen as a consequence of the calm way he has handled all the mayhem.

He has never once complained about the way the club are going about their business and remains quietly confident that things will sort themselves out given time.

The big question is whether he will be afforded that time by an unpredictable owner who has already employed six full-time managers in five years.

Monday’s trip to Leicester is immediately followed by further Midlands derbies against Aston Villa and Wolves.

Local pride alone means those three games will be make or break for Cooper.

But it’s the prospect of an immediate return to the Championship which will seal his Forest fate.

Forest are 19th in the Premier League table

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Forest are 19th in the Premier League tableCredit: REX

It’s just hot air, Gareth

IF there’s one thing absolutely guaranteed to p*** off a manager it’s tactical lectures from sports writers such as myself.

Like Harry Potter getting magical advice from Muggles, the intricacies of the modern game are generally considered to be far too complex for us simple hacks.

Never have I seen the hackles rise quicker in a press conference than when someone has the temerity to question a coach’s formation or gameplan.

It hasn’t always been this way. Back in the day, the posh correspondents would try to distinguish themselves from grubby tabloid newshounds by asking about the high press or the evolution of the false nine.

But now those queries are greeted with disdain by managers who have spent years gaining their coaching badges and actually understand the difference between numbers four, six and eight.

So spare a thought for Gareth Southgate as the world and his dog tell him where he’s going wrong as England boss and exactly how his team should play at the World Cup.

If I were him, I would be telling all those amateur advisers where to stick their suggestions.

Because there’s only one person whose opinion is actually going to count in Qatar. All the rest is simply hot air.

Gareth Southgate is under pressure heading into the World Cup

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Gareth Southgate is under pressure heading into the World CupCredit: REX

Jack Sou confused

Jack Grealish spent a lot of the last week verbally jousting with arch critic Graeme Souness and doesn’t understand why the former Liverpool hard man has got it in for him.

Perhaps getting himself booked for dissent against Italy last week, subsequently being banned from England’s final World Cup warm-up game, might just have something to do with it.

Jack Grealish picked up a booking in England's Nations League clash with Germany

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Jack Grealish picked up a booking in England’s Nations League clash with GermanyCredit: GETTY

Jetset ‘n match

Roger Federer’s farewell to tennis was delayed when a protester ran onto the court at the Laver Cup and set himself on fire.

Apparently, he was upset at the use of private planes and wanted to highlight it by dousing his arm in lighter fluid and striking a match.

Maybe Fed and Rafa Nadal blubbed that night because they had to go home by EasyJet!

Roger Federer and Rafal Nadal embrace during the Laver Cup

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Roger Federer and Rafal Nadal embrace during the Laver CupCredit: Getty

Tax cold comfort

Financial experts have calculated the average Premier League footballer will be £240,000 a year better off as a result of the recent tax cuts announced by Prime Minister Liz Truss and her new Government.

Which I’m sure will come as some comfort to the rest of us as we decide whether to heat or eat this winter.

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Kit fits the bill

For a company that “doesn’t want to be visible” at the World Cup, sportswear manufacturers Hummel have been making quite a song and dance about their new Denmark kit.

If they were that offended by Qatar’s human rights record, they would have refused to supply any team there. Rather than selling the shirts, as displayed by Christian Eriksen, at £72 a pop.

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