After Crystal Palace made the “reluctant” decision to sack Patrick Vieira, it would be easy for the Nottingham Forest hierarchy to start feeling nervous.

Following the loss to Newcastle United, Forest find themselves a point behind Palace and, depending on results elsewhere this weekend, could find themselves embroiled in further trouble in the Premier League table.

The international recess could feel like an eternity.

But Steve Cooper’s greatest achievement as Forest head coach has been inspiring a sense of unity and togetherness, not just at the City Ground but throughout the city. That’s what helped them chart a path to promotion through the Championship play-offs and remains their greatest and most prized asset as they look to ensure survival in the top flight.

If Forest are to ensure their stay in the Premier League lasts more than one season, after two decades away, they would surely benefit from remembering exactly what brought them here. And who.

For many years, the Forest jersey had a weight when you put it on; a sense of expectation that was catalyzed by the remarkable achievements of Brian Clough. Many good players have buckled under him.

Now, as the final chorus of Mull of Kintyre ends with a deafening roar, the City Ground feels energized. Forest players are picked up, rather than squashed.

Fans are spellbound as Emmanuel Dennis scores for Forest (Photo: Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

And much of that is down to Cooper, who has somehow managed to maintain the same spirit that existed within the promotion-winning team, even with a locker room that has welcomed 29 new signings this season.

Despite the relegation battle, the fans have stood firmly behind their team when, in years past, the whining and moaning would have started much earlier.

The Welshman’s celebrations have been less regular but whatever happens now, they will remain an iconic symbol of a storied period in the club’s history. They are also the only time he is alone.

Cooper understands the players, he understands what this club means to the fans and he understands the nuances of a city that has been deprived of top-level football for far too long. From his habit of wearing Paul Smith gear to his desire to ensure that the Miracle Men who won back-to-back European Cups are regular visitors to the stadium and training ground, Cooper has always had his finger in Nottingham’s heartbeat. and Nottingham. Forest.

He also understands that he, along with many others at the club, is on a learning curve when it comes to understanding the demands of a completely unforgiving environment.

Forest’s first home loss in ten games, and six months, will bring some added pressure. Or, more accurately, their contrasting form certainly will: 20 of Forest’s 26 points have been racked up next to the River Trent. Given their struggles along the way, they only recorded one win away, at Southampton, the moment they lost another game at Nottingham was always going to darken the mood considerably.

Evangelos Marinakis, the club’s Greek owner, was furious after the final whistle. His anger, however, was directed in the direction of referee Paul Tierney.

Forest’s hierarchy filed an official complaint with the refereeing body PGMOL over the refereeing standard after their previous home game against Everton. Against Newcastle, they felt there was a foul by Joe Willock on Andre Ayew in the build up to the visitors’ equalizing goal which went unpunished.

That was the message discreetly transmitted to the media by the club. What was rather less subtle was an Instagram post from the club’s official account, captioned “A crucial decision in a crucial game, and we’ve been let down again by the wrong decision.”

Cooper had been positive in his team selection, naming an attack-minded team that included Ayew, Emmanuel Dennis, Morgan Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson in a 4-2-3-1 formation. A clever finish from Dennis had initially put Forest ahead.

However, Forest could have no complaints about the winning goal, which came after Moussa Niakhate, a player who had been sidelined for seven months due to a sustained run of hamstring-related problems, conceded a penalty. in stoppage time when he touched the ball, allowing Alexander Isak to score his second.

“There is no individual fault,” Cooper said. “Whatever the results, we do things as one. That union is what makes them stronger as a group. All players will make mistakes. The important thing is that, whatever happens, we stay together. We will do it. I have no worries about that.

“We have been together from the beginning, regardless of what we have been through. We don’t complain about things; We talked about trying to improve and be the best we can be.”

Palace, having made the decision to part ways with Vieira, is now dedicated to identifying a replacement. Roy Hodgson, 75 and a man with a truly impressive record in management, has been mentioned as a possible option.

When Forest returns to action after the international break, they will face potentially season-defining matches against two of their fellow Wolves fighters at home and away in Leeds.

Coming off a six-game winless streak, the change Forest needs more than any other is a simple change of luck.

(Top photo: Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)


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