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Evangelos Marinakis will learn if faith in Steve Cooper was justified

Steve Cooper - Reuters/Molly Darlington

Steve Cooper – Reuters/Molly Darlington

Steve Cooper relaxes away from the pressures of management by running, and he is on course to last the distance this season at Nottingham Forest.

Cooper has spent much of the campaign with his job under scrutiny and he is preparing for four crucial matches as Forest attempt to avoid relegation from the Premier League.

Forest face bottom club Southampton on Monday night with Cooper battling to secure a second successive season in the top flight.

It has been a difficult, troubled return to the Premier League after a 23-year absence, but Evangelos Marinakis, the club’s owner, has so far defied his unwanted trigger-happy reputation to keep Cooper in charge.

There have been 15 top-flight managerial departures this season, with Forest and West Ham United the only clubs in the bottom half not to make a change.

Marinakis has perhaps wavered on a few occasions – and was angry after last weekend’s defeat at Brentford – yet it remains an irritation for those closest to the Greek businessman that his patience has not been widely recognized.

In October, after a heavy defeat at Leicester City, Cooper’s future appeared uncertain before he signed a new contract.

Last month, Marinakis issued a public statement backing the Welshman but warned that “results must improve immediately”.

Marinakis has invested almost £200 million on transfers this season and while recruitment remains a contentious issue, after 30 new signings, he believes that his financial backing should be helping to produce better results.

Evangelos Marinakis - PA/Richard Sellers

Evangelos Marinakis – PA/Richard Sellers

It is a testing environment for Cooper to operate in, but he has largely retained the support of the club’s supporters.

With so many new arrivals, an alarming number of injuries and a World Cup break that halted Forest’s momentum, Cooper believes his first season as a Premier League manager has been unique.

Cooper faces Southampton with the club still in with an opportunity to secure survival and he insists the squad’s spirit has defined their season.

“What has been an absolute constant is the togetherness between the players and the training-ground staff,” he said.

“We’ve not once let anything outside of that group interfere with who we are as a group and what we’re trying to do.

“It’s easy to show yourself in a good light when you’re winning games and it’s been very important for me to stand up and be counted in difficult moments because that’s what I think a real leader does.

“I’ve enjoyed all of that – not the results, obviously – but I’ve enjoyed fronting up for Nottingham Forest. That will continue until the very end.

“We have to use the importance of Monday’s match as real motivation and real desire, while at the same time really focusing on what it takes to achieve what we want.”

Brennan Johnson, the Wales international, and £16 million midfielder Danilo are both expected to recover from minor injuries to play on Monday night.

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