Our look at the three Premier League newcomers concludes with play-off winners Nottingham Forest.
It’s taken 23 years, but Forest are back. One of the grand old names of English football with its traditional stadium still brimming with atmosphere, it’s been a long wait for fans of the club catapulted to international fame by Brian Clough in the late ‘70s.
Few could have predicted such a fall from grace following relegation from the Premier League in 1998/99, including three seasons in League One from 2005-08, but the arrival of head coach Steve Cooper last September propelled the Reds from rock bottom of the Championship to promotion contenders.
The automatic route was still in their hands with two games to go, but a late defeat at Bournemouth ensured they were pipped by the Cherries for second spot.
Another late goal, this time from Hull on the final day, pushed Forest down to fourth place in the table, meaning they would face Sheffield United in the play-off semi-finals.
Despite winning 2-1 at Bramall Lane, Cooper’s side were pegged back on home soil, ultimately prevailing on penalties, paving the way for a 1-0 victory over Huddersfield at Wembley to crown an unforgettable campaign.
At 42 years of age, Cooper is considered one of the brightest young coaches in Britain.
The Welshman spent his entire playing career in his homeland, starting at Wrexham and later featuring in the UEFA Cup for Bangor City, but was soon drawn to coaching.
At 27, Cooper became one of the youngest coaches to achieve his UEFA Pro Licence qualification, before taking on roles with Wrexham and Liverpool, who appointed him their Academy manager.
Joining the FA in 2013, he led England Under-17s to World Cup glory in 2017, overseeing the development of top talents including Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Conor Gallagher.
Twice Cooper led Swansea to the play-offs in his two seasons in charge at the Liberty Stadium, only to come up short, but he went one better with Forest after losing only six of 38 league games – the same number they had lost in the eight matches preceding his arrival.
Already making his name on the international scene, winger Brennan Johnson was Forest’s main source of goals with 19 last season.
The son of former Reds marksman David, Nottingham-born Brennan progressed through the ranks at the City Ground and made his senior debut as an 18-year-old in 2019.
Loaned out to Lincoln in 2020/21, Johnson starred as the Imps reached the League One play-offs against the odds, scoring in the semi-final triumph over Sunderland, only to suffer Wembley heartache at the hands of Blackpool.
By now ready for the Championship, Johnson struck his first Forest goal against local rivals Derby, and found the net 14 times in the second half of the season alone, inspiring his team’s rapid ascent up the table.
A scorer in both legs of the play-off semi-final, Johnson is already cementing his status as a key member of the Wales squad having only turned 21 last month, scoring in back-to-back Nations League games against Belgium and Netherlands in the past week.
-Perhaps the greatest goalkeeper in the history of both clubs, Peter Shilton played more than 200 games for either side. He won the top-flight title and two European Cups with Forest before helping Saints to their best-ever league finish, runners-up in 1983/84.
-Fellow shot-stoppers Peter Wells and Dave Beasant also played for both teams. Wells spent seven years at The Dell, while Beasant, an England international, was voted Player of the Year by both sets of supporters.
-On the topic of keepers, Mark Crossley was in goal for Forest when he saved a Matt Le Tissier penalty in 1993 – the only man to do so, with Le Tissier converting 47 of his 48 career spot-kicks.
-Le Tissier, meanwhile, is one of only four men to score a hat-trick in a Premier League and still finish on the losing side; once against Oldham in 1993 and once against Forest on the opening day of the 1995/96 campaign. Crossley was in goal that day too, but powerless to prevent two penalties and one free-kick flying past him.
-Another club legend, Franny Benali played 15 games on loan for Forest in 2001. Otherwise his entire professional career was spent as a Saint.
-Other notable players to have represented both clubs include Billy Sharp, Danny Fox, David Prutton, Dexter Blackstock and Nigel Quashie.
Saints wins: 39
Forest wins: 49
Jan 2012: Forest 0-3 Saints
Sep 2011: Saints 3-2 Forest
May 2009: Forest 3-1 Saints
Dec 2008: Saints 0-2 Forest
Dec 1998: Forest 1-1 Saints