Nottingham Forest head coach Steve Cooper oversaw a Reds win on penalties against Sheffield United on Tuesday. In reaching the play-off final at Wembley, the boss might have taken some inspiration from a strategy used by Jurgen Klopp.
Forest lost the game 2-1 to the Blades. Goals from Morgan Gibbs-White and John Fleck cancelled out a strike from Brennan Johnson to send the game into extra-time. With the tie still on level terms penalties were required.
Goals from Johnson, Cafu and Steve Cook saw Forest through to face Huddersfield with a 3-2 win. Brice Samba proved the hero saving penalties from Oliver Norwood, Conor Hourihane and Morgan Gibbs-White to give the Reds a victory.
It might not have been the actual penalties that essentially gave Forest the edge over Sheffield United. Cooper worked at Liverpool when Klopp was first in place and his approach to preparing for penalty shoot-outs might have helped Forest.
Klopp is a stickler for preparation. Football psychological researcher Geir Jordet did a study on the German manager regarding penalty shootouts and there were some clear signs of Cooper utilising the Liverpool boss’ methods on Tuesday.
At the end of the contest, Forest got themselves into a little huddle. This lasted for no longer than a minute or two and afterwards, the team gathered themselves on the halfway line ready for the commence of the shootout.
Meanwhile Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom seemingly took an age to choose his five players. Clearly, that had an impact on proceedings, with the Blades seeing their first two kicks saved by Samba.
Cooper will have learned a lot from Klopp and Forest are in safe hands
What happened on Tuesday might be coincidental. Cooper is a meticulous man at the best of times but it does seem strange that he chose this method of preparing his team for a shootout when he’s seen Klopp in action before.
Whatever the Forest boss did seemed to work. The Reds looked far calmer during the shootout than the Blades. Right from the first kick, not a single Forest player looked fazed and they finished the job in a professional manner.
Cooper might have some way to go in order to emulate Klopp. Some people do forget, however, that the Forest head coach is still a relative novice when it comes to managing men’s football.
If the Reds do reach the Premier League it will be a remarkable story. Cooper will then be deserving of every accolade that comes his way and Klopp isn’t a bad role model for the Forest man to draw inspiration from.