Steve Cooper tipped to manage big Premier League side as former Liverpool youth star explains what gives Nottingham Forest boss ‘perfect balance’ as a coach

    You can bet there would have been some sleepless nights in the Huddersfield and Nottingham Forest camps ahead of the Championship play-off final, with both sides vying for that final spot in the Premier League for next season.

    Forest boss Steve Cooper will no doubt be feeling the nerves, but it’s his sheer enthusiasm for football that will be the main reason he struggles for some shut-eye ahead of the Wembley showpiece – EXCLUSIVELY live on talkSPORT.

    Cooper suffered play-off final heartache last season with Swansea. He’ll be hoping to right that wrong with Forest

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    Cooper suffered play-off final heartache last season with Swansea. He’ll be hoping to right that wrong with Forest

    Such is his enthusiasm for the game, Cooper used to ring and players and tell them how excited he was ahead of matches when he was a academy manager at Liverpool, reveals former captain of the Reds’ under-18 side Jordan Lussey.

    “I was captain, he made me feel like a captain,” Lussey told talkSPORT.com.

    “He gave me a lot of responsibility for the team, he gave me a lot of one-to-one meetings, he phoned me away from training. When I was at home he’d ask me what I thought of ideas he had.

    “I remember we played Chelsea in the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup and he’d be ringing me telling me he was so excited, he wouldn’t be able to sleep before the game. And at that level… God knows what he’d be like now!

    “It was the first time I’d come across that kind of passion for a manager… it was just a pleasure to play for him.”

    Success as manager at youth level – most notably winning the World Cup with England’s Under-17 side – has seen many in the game sit up and take notice of the man from Welsh town Pontypridd.

    Cooper earned his stripes at Anfield before going on to achieve huge success with England

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    Cooper earned his stripes at Anfield before going on to achieve huge success with England

    He’s now revitalised a Forest side that was bottom of the Championship when he took charge in September

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    He’s now revitalised a Forest side that was bottom of the Championship when he took charge in September

    He’s made a very smooth transition into management at senior level too – taking Swansea into the play-offs in his two seasons in charge.

    But it’s his work with Forest that’s caught the eye even more, having taken charge with the team at the foot of the Championship when he first took over. Now they’re one win away from the big time.

    An attractive playing philosophy – another of Cooper’s former players at Liverpool being quoted saying ‘The Barcelona way is Coops’ way’, but his management style has many layers to it.

    “His man-management was up there with the best I’ve had in my career,” Lussey added.

    “He made me feel special, he gave me confidence as a player and asked for my advice as well. He’d tell me what the game plan was and I just knew stepping onto a football pitch what he wanted me to do.

    Lussey says he was ‘gutted’ when Cooper left to join the Football Association in 2013

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    Lussey says he was ‘gutted’ when Cooper left to join the Football Association in 2013

    “The impression of Coops is he’s a nice manager and a nice guy, which he is, he’s one of the good guys in football. But if you’re not doing the job that’s asked of you, he will tell you. There’s been quite a bit of hairdryer treatment from Coops where I’ve been in the dressing room.

    “I think he’s got the perfect balance of a manager who’s got respect and you’ve got to play for because if you don’t you’re going to get a b******ing. But also you’d run through brick walls and you know he’s got your back.”

    Promotion to the Premier League would be another big step in the 42-year-old’s promising career – but Lussey is certain there’s so much more to come from Cooper.

    “In the dressing room we knew he was destined for big things,” Lussey said.

    Getting a Forest side that looked set for League One to the top flight would arguably his biggest managerial achievement to date

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    Getting a Forest side that looked set for League One to the top flight would arguably his biggest managerial achievement to date

    “When he left Liverpool at the time he did I remember being gutted because he thought highly of me as a player, but I knew wherever he went he would kick on.

    “In my mind there’s no doubt one day he’ll go on to coach one of the big teams in the Premier League.

    “No doubt about that… he’s capable of winning big trophies.”

    Tune into talkSPORT for LIVE and EXCLUSIVE commentary of Huddersfield vs Nottingham Forest in the Championship play-off final – Sunday, 29 May – Kick-off: 16:30 BST

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