James Forrest: I’m not uncomfortable being called a Celtic legend

James Forrest. Picture: SNSJames Forrest. Picture: SNS
James Forrest. Picture: SNS
The word unassuming could have been invented to describe James Forrest. The Celtic winger’s modesty doesn’t preclude him knowing his place, though – and knowing that place is becoming pretty special in the annals of his club.

Should a treble treble be achieved, by the end of this season, Forrest’s honours total with Celtic will move on to 17. As the club mourn the deaths of Lisbon Lions Billy McNeill and Stevie Chalmers, there is an acknowledgement that as captain and matchwinning goalscorer for Jock Stein’s all-conquering, first non-Latin team to lift the European Cup, their like will never been seen again. Yet, it is possible that Forrest could carve out a niche at Celtic that won’t ever be replicated.

Described as a legend by Neil Lennon after he returned to the club as interim manager, the player says he is not uneasy if that places him in the company of two men whose feats for the club have rightly been appreciated as their passing has been reflected upon. Forrest, named on the PFA Scotland player of the year four-strong shortlist along with team-mate Callum McGregor, is on track to become the most decorated Celtic player in the club’s history. If he plays his part in a treble treble success, he will be the first 27-year-old to accumulate so extensive a winners’ medals collection in the club’s long history. And a haul of 17 would place him behind only Billy McNeill, 23, Bobby Lennox, 25, Jimmy Johnstone, 19, and Bobby Murdoch, Alec McNair and Jimmy McMenemy, all on 18. Scott Brown could, of course, have a 19 tally by the end of May too.

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Being mentioned in the same breath as such luminaries no longer causes Forrest, pictured, to gasp. “I am not uncomfortable [being called a legend] at all,” he said. “You take it in and it gives you a wee bit of confidence because if people are talking like that then it means you are doing something right. The trophies make you want more all the time and things like that encourage you to keep striving for more.”

Before the arrival of Brendan Rodgers, Forrest’s future at Celtic appeared under serious question as he appeared to stall on a new contract. Now, it is possible he could be one of those increasingly rare players – like McNeill – who spends his whole career at Celtic.

“You don’t see that much nowadays but I think Celtic is massive,” Forrest said. “You hear of players who go down south and a lot of them do say the clubs they are at are good but they are nothing compared to Celtic. Everyone is different – other players do go down and enjoy it. I think here you know you are in Europe and you are going for trophies and I think it helps you with Scotland as well. It is a massive club and because I came through the academy I appreciate that a lot.”