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Championship Playoff Final: How will Nottingham Forest perform in the Premier League?

Nottingham Forest are back in the Premier League after a 1-0 win at Wembley over Huddersfield saw them triumph in the Championship Playoff final.

After a rollercoaster campaign, in which they failed to win their first seven games, the East Midlands outfit will now play in the top flight in 2022/23.

The two-time European champions have been through the mill since they were last relegated from the Premier League in 1998/99 and will be desperate to establish themselves where they feel they belong.

They are 4/5 not to be relegated and Steve Cooper can now look towards a season in the league where he has always looked destined to be.

Own goal the difference

On a sunny yet breezy afternoon at Wembley, the pair took to the field in the 'richest game in football' knowing they were 90 minutes from the Promised Land of the top flight.

For Forest, it was a first Wembley appearance since 1992, and a maiden playoff final. Meanwhile, the Terriers were back at the ground where they won promotion to the Premier League by beating Reading on penalties in 2017.

Inevitably, it was a cagey contest and an own goal made the difference; Levi Colwill deflected James Garner's cross-shot past Lee Nicholls after 43 minutes.

Huddersfield were happy to sit back and try to hit Forest on the break but had to attack in the second half. Although Carlos Corberan's side dominated for long spells, their failure to record a single shot on target at Wembley was telling.

The Terriers did have a penalty shout turned down by VAR when Jack Colback looked to have tripped Harry Toffolo, with referee Jon Moss, who was taking charge of the final game of his career, brandishing a yellow card to the Terriers defender. Lewis O'Brien also went down under a challenge from Max Lowe but referee Jon Moss waved away the protests but the Kirklees club will be left frustrated by their inability to shine on the big stage.

After 23 years away, Forest are back in the Premier League - but how will they do?

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Cooper gets his chance

It is already Forest folklore that Steve Cooper took over a side bottom of the Championship and transformed them, dragging them from relegation candidates to Sunday's Wembley success.

Cooper has, of course, been on the other side of the coin, losing last season's Championship playoff final 2-0 to Brentford with Swansea but after churning through managers in recent years, the Tricky Trees finally seem to have struck gold.

The 42-year-old has earned his stripes, working his way through the academy system before leading England's under-17s to World Cup glory in 2017. He had a talented squad but harnessed that ability, as a side featuring current full internationals Marc Guehi, Phil Foden and Callum Hudson-Odoi defeated Spain 5-2 in the final.

After working wonders with Swansea, he left in the summer of 2021 but wasn't out of work for long, replacing Chris Hughton at the City Ground.

Since then, he has guided his side to 27 wins in his 45 matches in charge, while also seeing off Premier League sides Arsenal and Huddersfield in the FA Cup.

His team have ridden their luck, requiring penalties to squeeze past Sheffield United in the semi-finals but the way the Forest players have reacted to Cooper tells you everything. This squad has seen its fair share of coaches but none have been able to produce any real consistency.

Even if they had failed against Huddersfield, Cooper may well have been in the Premier League next season. The Welshman is a seriously talented coach and deserves his shot at the big time.

Academy stars blended with loan heroes

Like Cooper, had Forest flopped in the capital, several of his players would also have been interesting existing Premier League clubs.

Defender Joe Worrall, who has skippered the team for periods this season, went close to leaving last summer. At the same time, another academy product Brennan Johnson is believed to have been the subject of real interest in January.

Those two, plus midfielder Ryan Yates, the man who applied the pressure on Colwill for the goal, are all local boys and, alongside goalkeeper Brice Samba, form a strong spine.

The board now need to get to work with a host of crucial players only on the banks of the Trent courtesy of loan arrangments.

Midfielder Garner, defender Djed Spence, forward Keinan Davies and playmaker Philip Zinckernagel all started Sunday's game but are each on loan, while Max Lowe, borrowed from Sheffield United, also came off the bench.

The Samba-Worrall-Yates-Johnson axis is a strong one but Cooper will have to supplement their quality.

Johnson was the side's top-scorer with 18 goals, with club captain Lewis Grabban, who has never quite cracked the Premier League, second in the stats at 12.

Yates has netted nine times, but Davis managed just five strikes and will need to improve if he stays with the club next season.

So how far can they go?

Purists will applaud Forest's ascension back to the top flight but you don't survive on goodwill alone.

Survival will be Cooper's priority, with them 10/11 to be relegated, but Worrall, Yates and Johnson look primed for the Premier League and the extra passion brought by those homegrown heroes will only boost the side.

Cooper's connections will also help when it comes to signing players, whether on loan or permanently, and you can bet that he'll have assembled a squad he believes in by the first weekend in August.

Brentford have shown that you can win the playoffs and survive. Like Forest, they are an extremely well-coached outfit and have also kept much of the squad that got them to where they are.

Investment will be required, with the reported £170m this win will earn them sure to come in handy, but with Cooper at the helm and with the talent already at the City Ground, this fabled club has every chance of establishing themselves in the top flight, with 8/1 for a top-half finish.

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