James Forrest: ‘Foreign lads tell us about finals but I want to know myself’

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Having been part of a multinational dressing room throughout his career at Celtic, James Forrest has listened to plenty of first-hand accounts of what it feels like to play at a major tournament finals.

Now in his fourth qualifying campaign with Scotland, the winger admits securing that experience for himself would give him as much to shout about as any of the honours he has racked up at club level. Forrest said: “The foreign lads at Celtic, like Mikael Lustig and others who have been at the club during my time, will all tell you about it.

James Forrest, left, and Kieran Tierney during a training session at Hampden. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

James Forrest, left, and Kieran Tierney during a training session at Hampden. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

“They are all happy to tell me how good it is. Some of them have played in a few, so are used to qualifying. Also, at the Euro 2016 finals last summer, I had a few mates who went there with the Welsh and Irish teams.

“It would definitely be up there with my best achievements if I could go to the World Cup finals next year with Scotland. It would be a tremendous achievement, but we don’t really want to think too much about that now. All we need to focus on this week is winning the next two games.”

Forrest has started Scotland’s last two Group F qualifiers, against Lithuania and Malta, to help manager Gordon Strachan’s squad revive their prospects of a second-place finish in the section and a route into next month’s play-offs.

The 26-year-old is firmly in contention for a 20th cap in tomorrow night’s must-win clash with Slovakia at Hampden, before the Scots head to Slovenia for Sunday’s finale.

“I have been playing every three days or so with Celtic this season and they are all big games but Thursday is right up there with any of them,” he added. “We have two games left now in the group and we have to win both. We know it’s going to be tough but we’ve been playing well recently.

“Players have been playing well for their clubs and the manager and staff here have been positive when we have come away with Scotland. They have never been down and you have seen that in our last four games.

“We have given ourselves a chance coming into these last two matches. Personally, doing well at Celtic has helped but the other lads from the other clubs have also done well, felt confident and 
contributed.”

While Forrest was disappointed when his clubmates, Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong, withdrew from the squad because of injury, he was delighted to see Callum McGregor called up from the Scottish champions.

“Callum has been excellent for us at Celtic,” he said. “He had a great season last time and he has started off really well again. It is a credit to him and he has worked hard to get into the squad.

“I train with him every day and we play together week in, week out so I know what he can do. He is level-headed as well, so, if he does get the chance to play on Thursday, he will just go about it the same way he always does.

“You see him finish with both feet in training and he can certainly take a goal. He likes to arrive in the box late and you saw at the weekend there that his two finishes were excellent. All the top managers say that at international level you have to be able to keep the ball and Callum can do that.

“He has just kept working hard and hasn’t spat the dummy out or anything like that because he wasn’t in the squad to start with. He is in the squad now and, if he gets the chance to play, then I’m sure he will do well.

“Scott and Stuart will both be big misses for us but we just have to focus on who is here and who can get the job done.

“We know the squad is strong and that we have players to come in and fill the gaps. We do have a lot of midfielders so a few of the boys are looking to get the nod to start.”