AIDEN McGeady always believed that James Forrest would shine as a Celtic player and he says he could now be one of the Scottish players given an integral role in the country’s rehabilitation on the international stage.
“You always get a lot of younger boys training with the first team, boys who are supposed to be not quite the next best thing but who are playing well at reserve level, but the only one I ever thought had the chance was him,” said the Everton attacker, who made a £10 million move from Celtic to Spartak Moscow in August 2010, before arriving at Goodison Park a couple of months ago. “He came in and looked like a first-team player when he was just 18. He would get on the ball and beat players and play his normal game, whereas others were maybe a bit too overawed by the fact they were training with the first team. He has already played a lot of games for Celtic and I think there’s definitely still more to come from him. But he has the potential, he has all the qualities, all the tools needed to be a top player.”
McGeady was in Glasgow on Wednesday to help launch this year’s PFA Scotand Player of the Year awards. Forrest won the Young Player of the Year award in 2011-12 and added the Scottish Football Writers’ young player accolade in the same season.
He had made his debut for the Parkhead side two years previously but had come of age during that title-winning campaign, turning in displays that led to him being described by the SFA’s performance director Mark Wotte as “the light in the darkness” of Scottish football and, in 2012, he was included on a FIFA list of players to watch. Closing in on 100 appearances for the league leaders, he has been hamstrung by niggling injuries, but McGeady still believes he has what it takes to get to the very top.
“I do keep tabs on Celtic,” he added. “I try to catch as many games as I can and if not I go online and see what the score was and the match report so I have kept an eye on him. I think he has been unlucky with injuries and I think if he hadn’t had so many then he might be at a better stage in his career. I think he is still trying to get that momentum from playing every week and performing every week. But I think he’s definitely got the potential.
“It’s hard to know without a crystal ball, but if he carries on the way he was playing – playing really well – then the sky’s the limit. But that’s the same with any talented young player. [When he made the breakthrough] he was only young and, of course, if you are playing that well and playing every week and playing in the Champions League and consistently delivering then I think there probably would have been [clubs after him].”
Now 22, there is still plenty time to have managers clambering over each other to sign him up.
A lot of comparisons have been drawn between McGeady and the next youngster to come through the Celtic youth ranks to eventually dazzle in the major matches, but the Republic of Ireland international says there are also differences in their preferred styles of play.
“I think we are quite different,” said McGeady. “His game is probably based more on pace but he is technically very good as well. I’m saying I can do that as well and he can do a lot of the things I do, but usually we prefer a different way of playing. I’m more likely to try to beat someone with a trick or a little feint, he is more direct.”
Forrest earned his first Scotland cap against the Republic of Ireland in May 2011, and with the countries drawn in the same European Championships qualifying group, McGeady is aware of the threat posed by the Scottish youngster, who offers national boss Gordon Strachan something different from many others in his squad.
“Scotland have a lot of good young players around the age of 22-23 coming through and it bodes well for them. The only thing James Forrest has to do is get himself fit and get into the team and do what he was doing and play consistently well and then everything else will take care of itself.”