Luton coach expects Hughton to turn Reds into promotion contenders next season

Cohen impressed by attacking talent that Forest possess

By Mike Simmonds
Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 11:35 am
Nottingham Forest boss Chris Hughton watches a Luton game last season
Nottingham Forest boss Chris Hughton watches a Luton game last season

Luton first team coach Chris Cohen expects Nottingham Forest boss Chris Hughton to turn his former club into promotion challengers next season.

The Reds had been tipped by many to mount another assault on the Premier League this term, but have struggled in the lower reaches of the table for much of the season, currently sitting in 16th, two places below the Hatters.

Hughton took over in October following the dismissal of Sabri Lamouchi who resided over a huge dip in form last term that took the club from automatic promotion contenders for large parts to missing out on the play-offs on goal difference after a dramatic 4-1 final day defeat to Stoke City.

They had lost the opening four games of the season too, as although Hughton's arrival sparked an initial upturn, they then went seven matches without victory, losing six, to sit fourth bottom in mid-December.

A 2-0 home win over Sheffield Wednesday steadied the ship though as the former Brighton manager finally started putting some results on the board, with seven wins, six draws and two defeats from their last 15 games, pushing Forest 11 points clear of relegation.

They are 12 points away from the play-offs though, as Cohen, who was U23s coach at the City Ground last season, expects Hughton to mount an assault on the promotion places next term, saying: "I think it is a difficult job, the way that they didn’t make the play-offs last year on the last game of the season really hurt the football club.

“I was there at the game and looking forward to a play-off and a chance to get into the Premier League, to it all being over 90 minutes later.

“Sabri did a great job there but it wasn’t working, so Chris came in with a squad that he didn’t inherit or choose and he has had to change that.

“You can see over the course of the time he has been there, gradually building them into a team that will be competitive at the high end of the table.

“But that takes time, as it always does, with a new manager going in, changing the squad.

"He has obviously brought some players in that he knows and that he has worked with before and that he trusts.

"If you look at the front players they have got alone, they’ve got an unbelievable array of talent in terms of people that can win you a game.

"It doesn’t just happen overnight, I think he has done a great job to stabilise the ship and I’m sure he is looking to build on it for the rest of the season and looking to then having a promotion push next year.”

Hughton has gone back to some of the players he knows well, signing Anthony Knockaert from his former club Brighton on loan and adding experienced striker Glen Murray, also from the Seagulls, recently.

The 37-year-old scored twice on his debut against Wycombe, as Cohen continued: “They already have Lewis Grabban and Lyle Taylor as potent strikers in the Championship for the last few years and then you go and add Glenn Murray to it.

“They’ve got an array of talent that any Championship team would love.

"It doesn’t always bring results but with Chris they are building something probably for next year more than this year and Glenn Murray is a proven Championship striker who has scored goals wherever he has been.

"Someone that if he does play, or (Lyle)Taylor plays, or (Lewis) Grabban plays, we know we are going to have to be at our best to combat them.”

Although Cohen is well versed on the squad in place at Forest, haven't spent 13 years with the club prior to joining Luton in September, he hasn’t played a bigger role in the Haatters’ preparation for tonight's game, adding: “The manager, staff and analysts are so up with everything they are still telling me stuff to be honest with you.

"I'm finding out stuff about people I have been friends with for 10 years so it is great they know so much.

"Any way I can help has been exactly the same as always, apart from me speaking to you guys (the press)."