There is only one difficulty that Kieran Tierney finds is becoming ever more pronounced in playing alongside James Forrest – precisely how to find new ways to acknowledge just what an immensely influential performer his Celtic team-mate has made himself.
The quiet and unassuming nature of the 27-year-old means he will never seek to blow his own trumpet. Tierney is happy to do that for him. But the Lanarkshire defender is being left short of breath by the storming contribution Forrest is making to the club’s bid for a remarkable third straight treble.
Indeed, the Celtic left-back even tried to shout the winger down in the lead-up to his producing a Mo Salah-esque 25-yard beezer of a goal that set Neil Lennon’s men on their way to their emphatic Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Aberdeen on Sunday.
Tierney was all too happy to fail on this front, as the strike paved the way for a 3-0 victory that, with an eighth straight title seeming certain to be secured in the coming weeks, leaves only Scottish Cup final opponents Hearts standing in the way of an unparalleled – across world football, no less – treble treble.
“James’s form is scary. He’s had a brilliant season. At this goal, I was actually screaming for the ball. Next thing I know I’m running towards him to say, ‘good job, Jamesie’,” said Tierney.
“I am running out of compliments for him because we are complimenting him every week now. He’s scoring goals, getting assists and it really is fantastic to have a player like him in your team. “James has scored great goals and important goals this season. That shows how good a player he is. He is one of the best players I have played with. I hate playing against him in training because he’s just so difficult to go up against.
“I’m so pleased for James. He’s such a hard worker. He is one that keeps his head down, he doesn’t like the headlines, he is happy to get on with his football. He’s a really special player.”
Former Celtic striker Frank McAvennie suggested this week that while Forrest had shown himself to be a big game player – his weekend efforts following a winner against Rangers and a decisive strike in the Scottish Cup quarter-final at Easter Road – he was still looking for him to have a greater impact on a regular basis. With 17 goals, for the second consecutive season, and 20 assists in this campaign Forrest has hardly been allowing himself languors. Moreover, Tierney says that his wide role doesn’t make it easy to affect all games.
“The consistency James has shown over recent years has been brilliant, especially for a winger. It’s such a difficult position to play,” said the full-back. “And now in so many games he’s getting doubled up on because they know he’s such a threat and he still manages to find space and take men on. He is a joy for all of us to play in the same team as him.
“James is always looking for the ball. Hey, we want him on the ball. That was our instruction on Sunday, if we get the ball and James is there, give him it and watch it go. He is that good. James can deal with what any team can do against him.”
All that can cause Tierney, in any way, to clam up when assessing the contribution of Forrest to the Celtic cause is the subject of his player of the year credentials. To many, these are now indisputable, but the ability of fellow team-mate Callum McGregor to turn out top-notch performances time and again these past ten months leaves Tierney feeling like he is being asked to pick a favourite child when asked to favour one over the other.
“He is, of course, a candidate for player of the year. That is 100 per cent. We have a few in here at Celtic who could win it. Callum McGregor is another one. You know what you’re going to get from him in every game and it doesn’t matter what position he is played in. That will be a tough one to call. But they would be my top two.”
His pride in those within the Celtic camp extends to Lennon, whose tutelage he came under for the first time two month ago when he returned as interim in the aftermath of Brendan Rodgers’ rapid exit. Lennon is making his case for permanency in the post with smart man-management.
“I’m delighted for Lenny,” said Tierney. “He’s a great manager to win under. He makes you feel so special, he gives you a lot of confidence and makes you play with a smile on your face. I think you can see that in the boys.”