Welsh nanagers making their mark


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As the South Wales football public begins to anticipate the forthcoming Cardiff v Swansea derby, we look at how a number of leading Welsh managers are making an impact at their clubs. We begin with Steve Cooper.

At the time of writing, Cooper is battling with Nathan Jones of Luton Town to end up as the highest placed Welsh manager in the land. His Nottingham Forest side look realistic play off contenders and he has brought FA Cup adventures their way this season.

The former Wrexham academy coach took over the Swansea hot seat in 2019 and took the West Walians to the play-offs during that Covid-affected season where they lost 3-2 to Brentford over two legs.

The Pontypridd-born Cooper then went one better, leading his side to Wembley where Brentford once again proved too strong and lowered the Swansea colours.

The son of former referee Keith Cooper, the Forest boss is no stranger to the nerve-jangling atmosphere of the South Wales derby. His side gained a convincing victory over the Bluebirds in an encounter played in a stadium without fans due to Covid-19 restrictions in December 2020. Two goals from Jamal Lowe were enough to see off the capital city side that day.

Any victory over your local rivals is sweet of course but Cooper sent out a strong message that day about his preferred playing style.

“We did it our way, with the ball, trying to play through the lines, trying to create proper chances” he said, as his team found the spaces and moved the ball around to put themselves into good areas.

He also knew the importance of the result to the fans and dedicated that win to the Jack Army watching back in Swansea.

His latest visit to Cardiff was less memorable for him though as Cardiff City earned just their third league win of the season at home to earn a 2-1 victory.

Cooper left Swansea City by mutual consent in July 2021 and joined the former European champions in September of that year. His playing style has gone down well on the banks of the Trent and there are genuine hopes that he could be the man to take Forest back to top flight. Welsh international Brennan Jonson typifies the Forest flair and has caught the eye under Cooper this season with his attacking prowess.

Cooper enjoyed a modest playing career with The New Saints, Rhys, Bangor City and Porthmadog in Welsh domestic football, but has since earned a good reputation in the game.

He was Liverpool’s academy manager prior to taking charge of England Under 16s and later the Under 17s. He led the Under 17s to the 2017 UEFA European Championships final, losing to Spain on penalties. Later that year he brought World Cup success for the young England out fit with a 5-2 victory over the same opponents.

Who knows, come August we could see Cooper as a new Welsh Premier League Manager?

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