Celtic's James Forrest on joining European 100 club and how Joe Hart and James McCarthy took the edge off turning 30

The European domain appears a landscape where James Forrest is forever racking up landmarks.

James Forrest celebrates what he thought was his 15th gal in Europe as Celtic made it 2-0 in their Europa League play-off against AZ Alkmaar on Wednesday night. UEFA, though, later credited the strike as an own goal. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The Celtic winger thought he had another when he smacked a shot off Timo Letschert and it looped up into the net for his team’s second goal in their 2-0 win over AZ Alkmaar on Wednesday night. At the time, it seemed it hadn’t just banked Ange Postecoglou’s men a healthy advantage ahead of Thursday’s Dutch return leg of their Europa League play-off. It was adjudged Forrest’s 15th goal in continental competition to move him on to the same mark as Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffths, and behind only Henrik Larsson, Jimmy Johnstone and Chris Sutton in this scoring chart. Only for UEFA to lodge it as an own goal.

“I have heard some people are giving me it and some people aren’t. I will go with the positive ones and hope to take it,” he said. “It is good to play in Europe and score in Europe as well. It is good hearing those stats, it kind of drives you to keep adding to it. Always a positive.”

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Already this season, Forrest became only the second Scottish-based player to break the 100-mark for European outings, following in the footsteps of his former captain Scott Brown. “Class” is the unfailingly modest attacker’s reaction to such a momentous achievement. With 19 major domestic honours, Forrest’s career is one for the ages, but he never rests on his laurels.

“Over the years we have played a lot of qualifiers so you rack up the games doing that. But the amount of big games I have played in Europe has been unreal,” he said, a stat last week detailing how that, with 99 games from 2014-15, Celtic have played more in continental competition over that period than any other club. “I have had a lot of managers stress you don’t want to talk about what you have done when you are playing, you just want to keep adding to it. It is good when you are breaking records but I think you can really appreciate it when you are finished. Yet you do also need to appreciate it when you are playing.”

Another major number that has come up for Forrest recently. He turned 30 last month, an age when footballers are considered to be firmly in the autumns of their careers. Forrest said it didn’t feel like a big moment, but admits he was delighted to see 34-year-old Joe Hart and 30-year-old James McCarthy pitch up around then all the same.

“Outside football and a lot of people make a big deal of it,” he said. “I have not really thought that much about it but I know it is a kind of milestone. A lot of folk say I look younger which helps me. I was glad when we signed a couple of older boys - Hart and McCarthy - as well because I was the oldest player in the club. I am not one for thinking too much about it but when you see the younger boys...there is a younger squad here. I still feel good and I do feel young as well.”

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