James Forrest opens up on Scott Brown, a Celtic start against Rangers, and making Euros with Scotland

The football world into which James Forrest has returned is very different from the one that injury forced the Celtic winger to step out of six months ago.

Celtic's James Forrest feels he is ready to make an impact in the closing months of the season after his return from a near six-month period on the sidelines. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Forrest, in his 11th senior season, no longer plays for the champions under Neil Lennon, but now a team helmed by John Kennedy on an interim basis that are a distant second to title winners Rangers.

All sorts of pivotal changes are ahead for the Parkhead club come the summer. The 29-year-old is desperately hoping that the end of Scott Brown’s glittering 14-year stint at Celtic is not among them. A report the other day stated that he has been earmarked for a player-assistant role at Aberdeen by Stephen Glass, should Bown’s former Hibs team-mate become manager of the Pittodrie club. For Forrest, his captain is too important to lose.

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“I think everybody involved at the club - players, staff - wants him to stay,” said Forrest, whose substitute outing at Tannadice last Sunday was his first senior appearance since an ankle fracture in late September. “With everything he has achieved here, he is such a big part of Celtic. On and off the park he has been unbelievable. His numbers see they are right up there with the very fittest players and he never misses training. I can see him playing here for another year and then it is about how he feels with his body. In terms of the other side of it, I think Scott has always been a coach on the pitch anyway. And off too for that matter. It is up to him to determine his future but you could definitely see him going on to be a coach and a manager. [Scott leaving] is something I don’t want to happen, not so soon.”

Meanwhile, Forrest acknowledges it is too soon to expect he can feature from the start when Rangers come to Celtic Park on Sunday - even though monitoring by the club’s sports science department has shown his pace has already returned to pre-injury levels through a two-month running programme. “Another week or two training [after playing against Dundee United] is only going to benefit me,” he said. “But I have only played 10-15 minutes so starting against Rangers would maybe be a tough ask. I am feeling better and better all the time though.”

Forrest believes he has enough potential game-time to get him up to speed to ensure he is named in Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad for the Euros in June. And is encouraged the national manager would appear to feel the same. “I missed the October and November camps and managed to speak to him both times which was good because sometimes when you are injured you can feel like you are not a part of it,” said the wide man, who feels he played his part in the end of Scotland’s 23-year absence from major finals with his hat-trick and double in the crucial Nations League wins over Albania and Israel, respectively. “Speaking to him made me feel better so it was good of him to do that. It’s been a long campaign but now the finals are in sight and I think the whole country will be buzzing for the summer and I certainly am.”

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