When you play exactly 300 times for one club it would be easy to expect a job for life. For Chris Cohen, however, he speaks candidly on his new role at Nottingham Forest which in his words he is very fortunate to have.
Cohen called time on his playing career at the age of 31 in April 2018, shortly after making his final appearance for the club in a 0-0 draw against Bristol City.
The man who operated in a number of positions and served Forest with distinction was cruelly robbed of a prolonged career after three serious knee ligament injuries.
Taking that into consideration, he’d be forgiven for holding some resent and wanting to rid himself of professional football for good, sail off into the sunset and enjoy retirement with his young family.
That’s not really in Cohen’s persona though and now he is responsible for overseeing the development of Forest’s future stars, as the club’s under-23 manager.
The ex-Forest man is thankful to be tasked with the role and he took Nottingham Forest News through his journey into his current position, with praise for some former bosses along the way.
He said: “I decided to retire around November 2017. Mark Warburton was going to play me in a game against Bolton I think it was. I just went in and told him that although I was training, I was in agony. Waking up and doing everyday activities was proving hard work; even picking my little boy up was causing me pain and I knew that unfortunately, my time was up.
“Mark was brilliant with me he got me straight on the courses to do my badges. He had me out doing some scouting and I had a couple of games where I was on the headset in the stands connected down to David Weir and he really kept me involved.
“I then helped Gary Brazil out when Mark left. I was back on the headset for the Leeds game which we drew 0-0 and the FA Cup win over Arsenal. He had me helping out in training and then Aitor Karanka came in and it was very clear he was going to bring his own staff in.
“He was great with me though, he said it was difficult to be a player and then a coach and still be in the dressing room so how would you feel about looking at something with the academy. I went to see Gary (Brazil) and he said there was a spot available and he let me be the assistant with the under-23s alongside Gareth Holmes for the rest of 2018.
“The following season Jimmy Gilligan came in and I worked alongside him again with the under-23s. He left two or three months ago and fortunately for me Gaz decided I was ready to step up and become the manager and take the team.”
Having been in his new role as manager of the team for a few months now, Cohen is clearly enjoying the challenge, although it’s somewhat different to how he expected.
He continued: “I didn’t realise there’s something about being the guy who actually has to make the decision that’s very, very different. It could be boring logistical stuff or could be putting your opinion on the line by playing someone in front of a player who other people think should be in the team. It’s been an unbelievable learning curve for me to have to make those decisions and not to have anyone to answer to.
“Gaz is the academy manager and I always check things with him – ultimately he’s my boss but again he’s been brilliant and basically leaves me to make the final decision which I’m really lucky to have that trust.
Alongside Cohen is another former Forest favourite Andy Reid. He is combining his role at Forest with a coaching position with the Republic of Ireland under-19 ranks.
The under-23s boss is loving working with Reid and believes his character is proving an integral part of what he brings to the group.
On working with the Irishman, Cohen explained: “Obviously I played with Reidy; I was captain and he was vice-captain. We had a great footballing relationship and even better friendship which is great”
“He’s a great character but most importantly Reidy is tactically very astute and he understands the game so well.
“In the two years I’ve been doing this I’m so fortunate to have learnt from Holmsey, Jimmy, Gary and now I’m learning from Reidy every day; not just from his footballing knowledge but also the skills he brings as a coach.”
Chris Cohen was talking exclusively to Lee Clarke. Part 2 features more from the former Forest man.