Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper has challenged James Garner to continue his progress ahead of what could be a big summer for him at Manchester United.
The on-loan midfielder has made a big impression during his second spell at the City Ground under Cooper. Since the turn of the year, the 21-year-old has emerged as one of Forest’s top performers and underlined his growing reputation with another assist in the 2-0 win over Birmingham on Saturday.
United have faced calls from supporters for Garner to be included in their plans for next season. With a new manager set to be appointed this summer, it remains to be seen what will be in store for him.
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Nevertheless, Garner is set for a huge end to the season with Forest well-placed to finish at least within the Championship play-offs. With seven games remaining, they are also still in the mix for automatic promotion, sitting six points behind second-placed Bournemouth and with a meeting with the Cherries still to come before the end of the campaign.
Garner will likely have a big say in whether Forest make a return to the Premier League. His form of him since Cooper’s arrival at the City Ground has been excellent, and the Forest boss wants to see even more from him in the remaining weeks of the season.
“He’s definitely been on an upward trajectory, probably since he got back in the team,” Cooper told Nottinghamshire Live. “He came on against Reading (in November), and then he got in the team after that.
“He’s performed really, really well. I spoke to him at length the other week about that. And he did well for England Under-21s as well.
“It’s about him understanding that he’s playing well but, more importantly, understanding why he’s playing well and making sure he doesn’t take any backward steps in not producing game in, game out. I really think he’s found his athletic legs from him now for the Championship. He’s a strong runner.
“He’s able to produce that game in, game out. And we know he has the ability. He is a very good example of making sure he finishes the season off strong because there’s still so much to play for and so many minutes to play. He’s doing really well, but now is not the time to think about how well he’s doing – now is the time to play even better in the next game.
“He’s good for a goal, too. He’s around the set-pieces a lot with his delivery of him and he’s a good technician.
“He had a wonderful half-volley diagonal pass against Coventry. When it dropped, you had a feeling he was going to connect with it nicely. I think Brennan [Johnson] got in the way – I think the pass was for Djed [Spence]!
“He’s got really good technique. His out-of-possession game from him might go a little bit under the radar, but that’s been really good as well. He reads and intercepts some really important passes, and that’s as pleasing for me as the other stuff.”
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