'I just hope I can keep doing that as long as I’m here': The Celtic star who has joined an elite club

Celtic’s evergreen winger James Forrest derives warranted satisfaction from having become the club’s third man.
James Forrest impressed again for Celtic against St Johnstone.James Forrest impressed again for Celtic against St Johnstone.
James Forrest impressed again for Celtic against St Johnstone.

What will always be first priority for the 31-year-old, though, are future possibilities, not previous achievements. The Scottish champions’ 4-1 thumping of St Johnstone marked only Forrest’s fourth start of the season. However, even with his limited game-time, he has taken both his scoring and assist returns from a 12-year Celtic senior career beyond the century threshold – another assist added to his total in the success over Saints. Only Jimmy Johnstone and Henrik Larsson are credited with racking up the three figures on these two measures in the club’s annals, but the winger’s focus is on remaining a crucial option for Ange Postecoglou in Celtic’s final third. An aim that is consistently challenged by the array of attacking talent the Australian has assembled. Especially in the wide areas where Jota, Liel Abada, Daizen Maeda and Sead Haksabanovic are also intent on staking claims.

‘As long as I am playing for Celtic I want to keep contributing,” Forrest said. “Stats like that [about how many players have more than 100 goals and assists] are good to hear and I’m pleased to have added another one to that against St Johnstone. I just hope I can keep doing that as long as I’m here. Before we had the World Cup break I had a good wee spell in the team, but there are so many players and such competition for places as well so I think we just need to keep working hard. The manager has shown that he gives everyone a chance and you just need to be ready when it comes.

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“I maybe even reached the point a couple of years ago [when I savour every appearance]. Maybe when you get older you start to realise what you have. You know this is a massive club and I think you start to appreciate that more. You see the number of players we sign and bring in and I take pride and confidence from being here for so long. But you never rest on your laurels. You need to keep going and keep pushing. The manager doesn’t let you rest on what you have anyway. He is good for every game we play, it doesn’t matter who we play or the competition, he is always saying to everyone that we don’t want to be looking back one day and feeling as if we wasted a single minute. That impacts on me a lot because I am older and I want to make the absolute most of the time I have. I want to make the most of my career.”

The deployment of Forrest by Postecoglou would appear to afford the player little prospect of getting into a groove. The flipside is that the Celtic manager so rarely gives any frontline performers full games – such is the intensity he demands in forward areas – that the wide man will aggregate the playing minutes over time. “I think that’s just the way the manager likes it,” Forrest said. “He likes to change things at half-time or after 60 minutes. I think he likes to see boys coming in fresh and working hard. You would like to get a rhythm of playing, but when you don’t play you top up and do your hard work in training because when you see the number of times he has made changes this season you know there’s a chance to come in and do well."