CHRIS CO­HEN

The for­mer Not­ting­ham For­est skip­per’s so­cial me­dia mes­sage...

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

FOR­MER Not­ting­ham For­est skip­per Chris Co­hen says ‘ide­al­is­tic’ so­cial me­dia is giv­ing young play­ers un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions.

Co­hen, 31, re­tired in April af­ter a cu­mu­la­tion of se­ri­ous knee in­juries ended a decade of ser­vice at the City Ground.

Now coach­ing the club’s Un­der-23s un­der ex-Wat­ford striker Jimmy Gil­li­gan, he says the pit­falls fac­ing the cur­rent crop are a world away from his own days as an academy grad­u­ate at West Ham.

“When I was com­ing through, we could get away with a lot,” says the mid­fielder, who scored 21 goals in 364 EFL games for For­est, Yeovil and the Ham­mers. “In fact, no­body re­ally had a clue who we were.

“Phones were just tak­ing off. None of them had de­cent cam­eras. So­cial me­dia was com­ing in, but you’re talk­ing MyS­pace noth­ing like it is now.

“Now, any­thing they say or do, there’s thou­sands of peo­ple judg­ing them on twit­ter. Then they go on In­sta­gram and all they see is an ide­al­is­tic ver­sion of ev­ery­one else’s life.

“They see other young lads get­ting con­tracts or loan moves, train­ing with the first team. And they think ‘Why isn’t that me?’.

“But no­body ever posts an in­sta­gram photo when they didn’t train with the first team or didn’t get a loan move. It can cre­ate huge, un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions.

“I’m not say­ing we had things bet­ter. As a player, I hated it when a coach said ‘This worked for me so it’ll work for you’.

Un­re­al­is­tic

“You have to move with the times. There’s no point say­ing ‘Don’t use so­cial me­dia’ be­cause it’s how they com­mu­ni­cate. It’s like ban­ning con­ver­sa­tion.

“But you do have to of- fer guid­ance, ex­plain the dan­gers. And you have to un­der­stand the is­sues to know why they act in cer­tain ways. Be­cause un­derneath it all, most of them are re­ally good kids. It’s just that the ad­vice they get from other peo­ple isn’t al­ways the best.”

Co­hen has also spo­ken of the mo­ment he knew his ca­reer was over. Be­tween Septem­ber 2011 and Septem­ber 2016, he suf­fered three rup­tured knee lig­a­ments and spent 34 months out of ac­tion. A se­ri­ous groin in­jury stole a fur­ther four.

The East Anglian bat­tled back, play­ing through con­stant pain to eke out two solid sea­sons. By the end, how­ever, he was barely able to sup­port his in­fant son, let alone slog through a 46-game cam­paign.

“It was a cul­mi­na­tion of the in­juries, the way I trained, the num­ber of games,” ex­plains Co­hen, who played 303 games for For­est and won pro­mo­tion from League One in 2008.

Pain

“I had arthri­tis, ba­si­cally. All the op­er­a­tions, bones rub­bing to­gether and bleed­ing. I’d played in quite a lot of pain for the last few years and I never felt it de­bil­i­tated me as a player.

“But the sum­mer be­fore last, ev­ery­thing went down­hill. I was strug­gling to get out of bed, to pick my lit­tle boy up. I couldn’t put back-to-back train­ing ses­sions to­gether, never mind games.

“I went to meet Andy Wil­liams, the sur­geon. I’d seen him for four big op­er­a­tions, count­less in­jec­tions and flushes. And it was the first time he sat me down and said ‘Lis­ten, you need to con­sider re­tire­ment’.”

A year on, up­set and anger has turned to ac­cep­tance. “There’s a lot worse things go­ing on in the world,” says Co­hen. “I can look back on my ca­reer and say I might have worked a bit smarter, but I couldn’t have worked any harder.”

And that is now the mes­sage to young charges in­clud­ing highly-rated mid­fielder Toby Edser and Eng­land Un­der-18 winger Arvin Ap­piah. “Part of my role is to make them re­alise what spe­cial lives they can have. To seize ev­ery day and make the most of this amaz­ing job. It might come to noth­ing, but don’t give your­self a rea­son to re­gret any­thing,” he said.

PIC­TURE: PA Im­ages

GOOD TIMES: Chris Co­hen in his play­ing days with Not­ting­ham For­est

ONE TO WATCH: Arvin Ap­piah scores for For­est against Bur­ton in the Carabao Cup last month

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