Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper has urged his players to “give even more” in their bid to beat the drop this season.
Forest are winless in their last nine matches, collecting just three points in that time to slump to 18th in the Premier League, just below Everton on goal difference.
With eight games of the season remaining, Cooper understands the urgency of collecting points and they can end their drought when Champions League-chasing Manchester United visit on Sunday.
Cooper, though, wants to see more from his side, who have a decent record at the City Ground this season with five wins and six draws in 15 outings. They have only won once away from home by contrast.
“The objective hasn’t changed in terms of what we want to achieve this season,” Cooper said. “We’ve made it slightly more difficult because of the recent results, there’s no hiding away from that.
“We’ve got to give even more whether it’s how we play, how we believe, work-rate, confidence, togetherness, everything that we need to win a football match, we’ve got to give more.
“Even the times when we’ve won and played well, even that’s not enough. At this time of the season the stakes feel like they’re higher and the context is bigger because there’s less games to play.
“What we’ve given so far isn’t enough but there’s such a determination and the motivation do that. Personally I can’t think when I’ve ever been so motivated to succeed, I’m feeling that from the players as well and that will be helpful to any success we have.”
Cooper, who confirmed none of several players that have been sidelined recently would make a return this weekend, was publicly backed by Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis this month despite the downturn.
“This is a time of the season for real leadership, real strong characters, real strong belief, real quality, decisive moments at both ends of the pitch,” Cooper said.
“We have to stand up and be counted with how we play and the risks that we take. That’s what it’s going to take, we’re so motivated to do well.”
Forest dispensed with sporting director Filippo Giraldi earlier this week, with the Italian sacked after six months at the club and replaced by Ross Wilson, who has left Rangers.
“It hasn’t interfered with my day-to-day work, nothing does to be honest – I have to give that 100 per cent,” Cooper added.
“I had a good relationship with Filippo and I’ll work hard to have a good relationship with Ross.
“The exact rationale behind the change, I’m not entirely sure because I’m focusing on the players but the (sporting director) role is an important one for the club from a multi-disciplinary point of view in helping the club grow.”