It would be easy to describe James Forrest as a 21st century Celtic phenomenon after it emerged this week that the winger has weighed in with more assists than any other player to have represented the club this millennium. Yet the way the 28-year-old discovered the fact reveals how endearingly 20th century he remains.
The other night he was labelled a priceless asset by his manager Neil Lennon. The glowing praise came on the back of the Scotland international bagging his tenth goal of the season to seal Wednesday’s 2-0 victory at home to St Mirren. The strike ensured Celtic did not lose their top spot on goal difference to Rangers and came only hours after he had agreed terms to keep him at his boyhood club until 2023. How Forrest handles his lofty status shows that he certainly knows what has true value in such a narcissistic, celebrity-driven era.
The Ayrshire-born attacker seeks no fame in a position that simply doesn’t allow for anonymity, with his many achievements and accolades satisfying by-products of doing what he loves.
Forrest’s reluctance to seek plaudits is why it required his uncle to alert him to the fact that the winger tops a list on Twitter for who has created most Celtic goals since the turn of the century. With 82 assists, Forrest sits above such as Alan Thompson, Henrik Larsson, Shunsuke Nakamura and Shaun Maloney.
“I am not on social media, I keep myself away from that. But he sent me it,” explained Forrest. “He sends me some of the good stuff but not the bad stuff. It does make you feel good and it is good to see it but I don’t want to think about stuff like that just now. I always want to think of the next game and then add to it. It is great to hear and I do get a buzz off it but you need to stay grounded. The staff are good at keeping the boys humble. Maybe once I finish I will look back at things like that and realise what I had but for now I want to keep working hard and get as much as I can get.”
Like Twitter, Instagram, he says, is not for him, but last season’s triple player of the year stresses that his attitude towards landmarks and lauding is not the product of embarrassment.
“No, I am not embarrassed because it is good but I am not one for social media or being out there,” he said. “When you play for a club like Celtic it is worldwide and I think over the years I have never taken for granted how big the club is.”
Forrest was always going to have his work cut out to follow last season in which he was central to an unprecedented treble treble success, netted 17 goals, became the first Scotland player to score five goals in two games since Denis Law, and joined Bobby Lennox as one of only two Celtic players to have scored in three League Cup finals.
Yet, in moving on to double figures this season, he has already bettered the previous campaign. Not least because four of these have come in Europe – his previous best in a season was three goals.
“In the last few years I think I have managed to do double figures by Christmas but this is the earliest so it is really positive and I just want to add to it,” he said.
Hampden has been good to Forrest on major occasions and as Celtic seek to extend their record run of domestic cup tie wins to 30 against Hibernian in the Betfred semi-final tomorrow, he hopes it will continue to be so.
“With Celtic there are so many big games. We have a semi-final and then a Europa League game away to Lazio on Thursday and we know we can’t afford to slip up in the league either.
“That is good and you want to be involved in the big games and contribute. I hope I can do that on Saturday.”
If he does, he will leave it to others to big him up in the Twittersphere.