One pundit said before a ball was even kicked against Tottenham that Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper would lose his job “if he doesn’t start winning matches very soon” – but how soon?
Friday’s 2-0 home defeat by Spurs was Forest’s fifth loss in six games and means they have now won just one of their past 13 Premier League matches.
That run of form has plunged them to 16th in the table, just five points above the relegation zone, and leaves boss Cooper under increasing pressure.
He retains the support of many Forest fans, with the home crowd giving him a superb ovation before the game and singing his name throughout, but whether owner Evangelos Marinakis is of the same opinion is less clear.
“It does feel a bit unstable, a bit erratic. There seems to be this continual want for change,” said former Manchester United defender Gary Neville on Sky Sports prior to the match.
“You usually find if the ownership is stable the performance of the club is stable – and it’s just not here.
“It’s a bit mad and a bit crazy, which actually feels very different to how Steve Cooper is. He’s very measured and composed.
“These fans absolutely love him and the job he’s done at the club is really special, but if he doesn’t start winning football matches very soon – and I’m talking about tonight – he’s going to lose his job.
“The reality is the owner’s after him.”
Skip forward two hours and, despite a spirited display against one of the best teams in the division, a third successive home defeat means the question marks over Cooper remain.
Cooper has been here before.
Last October, with his side bottom of the league, the 44-year-old appeared on the brink of being sacked only to be handed a new contract in the aftermath of a 4-0 defeat by rivals Leicester City.
Then, in April, Marinakis was moved to release a statement backing Cooper in an attempt to end “false and disruptive reporting” about his future.
Although their recent poor run has seen those rumours resurface, Cooper’s connection with the supporters has been key.
“There’s such a strong feeling here,” said ex-Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports. “You don’t see that with many football clubs – you think of Klopp at Liverpool and Guardiola at Manchester City.
“There’s very few managers who feel like they’ve got the supporters in the palm of their hands – and he has.”
Neville said the players also seemed to be on their manager’s side, adding: “This isn’t a case of a dressing room lost, it’s a case of a dressing room really trying and fighting their hardest.”
Forest midfielder Neco Williams agrees.
“You saw the crowd today, they love the manager and we love the manager as well,” he said. “We believe in him and the fans believe in him, it is just a matter of time to pick up the results.”
After Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Wolves Cooper said his position was “irrelevant” and that “nothing else has entered my head” other than his team’s performances.
And, following the loss to Spurs, the ex-Swansea boss was again keen to focus on matters on the pitch rather than off it.
“There is obviously nothing good about the run of form we are in,” he told BBC Match of the Day. “We are not going to hide from it. What we are falling short of is some defining moments in games.
“The fans are brilliant, no doubt about it. The guys are really together and trying. We know we have to show more quality in the final third.
“We have to continue to believe in players, the moment we show doubt they will feel it and go on to the pitch not believing as they should.
“We have to stay committed as we can be.”