Forrest on course to be fit as long-term pelvic problem is closely monitored

JAMES Forrest is winning his race to be available for selection in tonight’s Old Firm game with Celtic manager Neil Lennon revealing the steps taken by the club to combat the young winger’s long-standing pelvic problem.

The 20-year-old Scotland international limped out of Celtic’s 2-1 win over Kilmarnock on Saturday, complaining of fatigue and tight hamstrings, but looks set to line up against Rangers.

“Hopefully he will be okay,” reported Lennon. “I don’t think it’s a major issue. But James has had these problems around the pelvic area over the years. We’ve managed to cope well with it this season, so we will just keep an eye on things. He is an explosive type of player and I think it’s the way his mechanics work as well.

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“We’ve had him sent down to London to see specialists in that field. They have provided him with orthopedic footwear to take the pressure off that area. It’s worked very well for us this year.

“The ironic thing is we probably gave him too many days off after the St Johnstone game recently. Because we’d just come back from Udine before that game, we gave them an extra day’s rest. It was one of those where James probably only needed one day off, then come back in and keep ticking over.”

Such has been Forrest’s growing influence this season, he is almost an automatic first pick for Lennon’s starting line-up.

“We tried to drip feed him into the team at first,” said the Celtic manager. “But I think he is mature enough now to play in any given situation. He played away against Udinese and Rennes, big games in the Europa League, so I don’t think an Old Firm game will faze him now.

“He is more than just a wide man now. I think he is a special talent and one we need to look after. We don’t have many in Scotland who can get people off their seats like James can.

“They way he has progressed this season has not surprised us, because we see what he can do in training. His football appreciation has got a lot better this season. James is essential to our attacking style of play.”

Lennon may reshuffle his defence tonight with Emilio Izaguirre and Kelvin Wilson in contention for returns to the starting line-up.

“Of course I would consider Izaguirre for this game,” said Lennon. “He is fit but he hasn’t had much football. He’s coming along very nicely. He was unfortunate not to get some game time on Saturday, with Kilmarnock scoring when they did.

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“We just couldn’t put him into that situation. So we’ll see. Kelvin got a good 40 minutes under his belt against Kilmarnock and did very well.

“Again, he is a player who could definitely feature against Rangers.”