Steve Cooper's Leicester appointment is a risk for both parties, writes TOM COLLOMOSSE... the Foxes boss needs to start well to banish any misgivings about his previous employers

Steve Cooper's enthusiasm was a big factor in why Leicester appointed him Several of his former players have spoken highly of his management style  LISTEN to It's All Kicking Off! Why England's Kyle Walker ISN'T among the elite

As England kicked off their Euro 2024 campaign with a 1-0 win over Serbia on June 16, new Leicester boss Steve Cooper allowed himself a quiet smile of satisfaction.

Four of the starting XI – Marc Guehi, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden – had been coached by Cooper during their rise to senior international football. A fifth, Conor Gallagher, was a second-half substitute, while another two, Dean Henderson and Cole Palmer, were on the bench.

This ability to improve young players was one of the factors that persuaded Leicester to move for Cooper following Enzo Maresca’s departure for Chelsea at the start of June.

Graham Potter had been a top target but chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha was never convinced that the former Chelsea and Brighton boss was fully sold on Leicester – and he was probably right.

Despite his two-year spell with Leicester’s East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest, Cooper’s enthusiasm for the job was palpable and he has signed a three-year contract.

Steve Cooper (pictured) was appointed Leicester's new permanent manager on Thursday

Steve Cooper (pictured) was appointed Leicester's new permanent manager on Thursday

Potter was a top target but Leicester were never convinced that he wanted to join the club
Maresca grew frustrated with what they believed were mixed signals about various key matters

This ability to improve young players was one of the factors that persuaded Leicester to move for Cooper over Graham Potter (left) following Enzo Maresca’s departure (right)

Cooper’s enthusiasm for the job was palpable and he has signed a three-year contract

Cooper’s enthusiasm for the job was palpable and he has signed a three-year contract

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On the face of it, there are significant obstacles to overcome: Leicester are likely to receive a points deduction this season for breaking spending rules, and players may be sold this month to ensure they can stay within the regulations for the current accounting period. With transfer spending limited, the squad may start the Premier League campaign weaker than it was when they lifted the Championship title.

Yet this is nothing compared with what greeted Cooper when he arrived at Forest in September 2021. The club were bottom of the Championship and the brief was to keep the ailing giant out of League One. By May, they had been promoted to the Premier League and in August they will begin their third straight season there.

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Cooper comes alive on the training ground and given Leicester’s £95million is one of the best in the world, he should be in his element. ‘He started his coaching career early and he has worked incredibly hard in that period to fine-tune his process,’ says Coventry defender Jake Bidwell, who played for Cooper at Swansea from 2019-2021. ‘He has so much confidence in it.

‘Nine times out of 10 if we lost a game it was because we did not carry out the plan. On a Monday you would go to training knowing exactly how the week would look.

‘Nothing shocked us. He had always done that much homework that he could predict exactly what was going to happen in a certain game. He took my game to the next level.’

The Liverpool forward has featured in both of England's opening games in a more advanced midfield role
Guehi (pictured) speaks glowingly of Cooper after working with him at Swansea and England

Cooper will have a quiet sense of satisfaction over Trent Alexander-Arnold (left) and Marc Guehi's (right) inclusion in England's Euro 2024 squads

Cooper (pictured) managed several of England's younger stars at age-level and won the U17 World Cup back in 2017

Cooper (pictured) managed several of England's younger stars at age-level and won the U17 World Cup back in 2017

Jake Bidwell, who played for Cooper at Swansea, hailed Cooper for 'taking his game to the next level'

Jake Bidwell, who played for Cooper at Swansea, hailed Cooper for 'taking his game to the next level'

Many players would say the same. Cooper backed Brennan Johnson on taking charge and the forward, an academy product, joined Tottenham last summer for £47.5m. Guehi speaks glowingly of Cooper after working with him at Swansea and with England’s age-group sides – just like Gallagher.

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Cooper and his team are at the training ground early and after sessions are complete, they will review them and prepare for the games ahead. These analyses are usually divided into four categories – in possession; out of possession; transitions; and set pieces.

Meetings are a vital part of Cooper’s approach and he will speak individually to his players and staff as often as he can. He will often speak to them over FaceTime or voice calls to gauge their mood and what makes them tick and he does not focus on his squad alone. At Forest, Cooper would often visit the City Ground during the week to pop into the club shop and greet office staff.

Cooper thinks of little else beyond family and football. With his family still living near Wrexham, the 44-year-old will spend most of his weeks at his East Midlands base. Cooper will work well into the evenings and devotes the majority of that time to watching matches. Three concepts – belief, self-worth, and ownership – underpin his work.

While there is no doubting Cooper’s ability as a coach this is an appointment with risk on both sides. Though the rivalry between Forest and Leicester is not as fierce as the one between Forest and Derby, it still exists and while fans will not hold the club’s financial difficulties against Cooper, he needs to start well to banish any misgivings about his previous employers.

Forest visit King Power Stadium on October 26 and while Cooper and Forest will say publicly that the game is no more important than any other, don’t believe a word of it.

Cooper backed Brennan Johnson (pictured) after taking charge and the academy product ended up joining Tottenham for £47.5m

Cooper backed Brennan Johnson (pictured) after taking charge and the academy product ended up joining Tottenham for £47.5m

His old club, Nottingham Forest, will visit Leicester's King Power Stadium on October 26

His old club, Nottingham Forest, will visit Leicester's King Power Stadium on October 26

Leicester owner Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha (pictured) cannot have the same misunderstandings over transfer budgets as he did with Maresca

Leicester owner Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha (pictured) cannot have the same misunderstandings over transfer budgets as he did with Maresca

There is no doubting Cooper's ability as a coach, but he has a tough 12 months ahead of him

There is no doubting Cooper's ability as a coach, but he has a tough 12 months ahead of him

For the appointment to work, Leicester must be absolutely clear with their manager from day one about the job he is taking. While this may seem a basic requirement, both Brendan Rodgers and Maresca grew frustrated with what they believed were mixed signals about various key matters, such as transfer budgets.

There cannot afford to be similar misunderstandings with Cooper. Though he will welcome the calmer environment than the one he was used to under Evangelos Marinakis at Forest, any manager will become disillusioned if they feel the role is different from what was advertised.

Leicester today is a long way from the club who won the FA Cup and twice nearly qualified for the Champions League under Rodgers. In 12 months time, they need still to be a Premier League club. The hard work starts now – but Cooper is ready for the challenge.

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