WWith one half empty at Wembley and the other crazy about recreating old rivalries in the Premier League next season, Nottingham Forest captain Joe Worrall accepted cardboard cutouts for Steve Cooper alongside Steve Cook, a sly free transfer in January, and beloved midfielder Joe Lawley.

At that point the actual forest manager, with the club’s sash draped over his shoulders, was about to hug his son and throw three punches in front of the crowd, as had become a tradition after Siegen, a celebration he celebrated on Monday repeated in front of the thousands who had gathered in the city’s old market square. But soon after winning, Cooper retreated to the dugout, covered his face with his hands and gave himself a few quiet seconds to digest all that had happened.

Jungle returned to the First Division for the first time since 1999. Cooper’s black polo shirt was drenched in champagne by his players, who raided a pitch-side interview, tears welling up in his eyes as he touched his pride at seeing more than 36,000 Forest fans enjoying their climb at the west end of the stadium and they became fifth And the last. The League side will be devoted to this side of the earth and have won this season, from Leicester City in the Community Shield in August to Port Vale in the League Two final last Saturday. ‘Permanent standing not allowed’ were the words that flashed onto the big screens before kick-off, but that message soon fell on deaf ears as fans enjoyed a fantastic season that marked Forrest’s worst start since 1913.

For Cooper, the international break in October, which Forrest entered fresh from his third game, with a 3-0 win over Birmingham, was an opportunity to bring his methods into his side and soon after they went nine straight games unbeaten. “We’ve had some great tournaments but sometimes I’d look at the league standings and think, ‘We haven’t made much progress here’ and we’d still be 15th or 13th and you’re like, ‘Maybe we won I’m not going there, top 10’,” Cooper said. coming”. “I am delighted to be part of the journey that takes us back to the Premier League.” Then he laughed. He smiled, “It looks great.”

Cooper’s laser-like focus kept Forrest on the ground as he headed to the top of the table and highlighted the knockout matches against Arsenal and Leicester in the FA Cup en route to hosting Liverpool, and after Sunday’s win he grinned as he apologized for posting the same answers and mocked the flat look he brought. The biggest prizes.

Steve Cook celebrates a slot from the Steve Cooper cartoon. Photo: James Gill/Dunhouse/Getty Images

“About the next game, control the controllable items,” he said, smiling, and all this nonsense. “I am strict with them [the players]I challenge and demand but I’m with them, I’m with them 100% and that’s how you bring out the best in people and bring out the best in yourself. But I felt it again. I asked them to trust me and not once wavered.”

Forest will not deviate from its principles due to a class promotion. “You need a clear identity, and we have that here,” said Lawley, who signed from Sunday’s rival Huddersfield four years ago. “In matches you have to adapt and change, but mostly we are here to attack teams and we will strengthen and do exactly the same. We showed that in the FA Cup, in matches where we were definitely not second in. We are successful because we are the team that we are and how we play. We always try to play up front and the press. To be among the players and staff that put Forrest back where they belong is a great feeling.”

The arrival of Cuper, wanted by Premier League clubs last summer, was a coup, but no one expected the extraordinary recovery that followed. “He went in and took charge of what on the outside looked like an unsuitable team that had low confidence and couldn’t score last season,” Worrall says. “We were fine defensively but we weren’t able to score for Tuvey and this year we’ve brought a breath of fresh air.” Speaking about the relationship with fans, Worrall said, “It’s grown miles in previous seasons, but now it’s so tight-knit. A lot of them come to the training ground, we have discussions with forum groups and they’ve supported us every step of the way. The contribution of the supporters is the reason The main behind our comeback.”

Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis has promised to support the manager in the transfer market. Photo: Richard Sellers/PA

Cafu, an unused substitute, quickly slipped onto the dressing-room floor and Spence’s grandfather was among those, cigar in hand, before hopping onto the team bus. Evangelos Marinakis, the Greek owner of Forest, who promised to “provide the team with good players with all the ammunition,” patted Spence, a star loaned from Middlesbrough, on the back and shook Cooper’s hand.

There was a warm embrace from Cooper with Football League CEO Trevor Burch who appointed him to Swansea. At what stage was the miracle? “Hmmm, good question,” Spence says. “We just believed; you can smell it, you can feel it on set, you can feel it in the dressing room. You just get that vibe. The manager came and gave us faith. Hard work is the main thing. It’s been an unforgettable season.”

A few minutes after the final whistle, live speaker Worrall, who frankly admitted that Forest hadn’t been good enough in previous seasons, likened Forest to a “leather dog” and highlighted how sweetly Cooper has been killing him and his teammates since September would have her.

The same applies to city land. Cooper sent individual letters to members of the Football Writers’ Association to apologize for not being able to attend the Midlands lunch in April and noted his desire to “get all the details right during these important weeks”. He certainly did.