The time to reflect on his Celtic career is not now for James Forrest. Yet, as the 26-year-old seeks to cap his annus mirabilis with a Scottish Cup victory over Motherwell today that would clinch Brendan Rodgers’ men a second successive treble, surely he must allow himself moments of wonder about the distance he has travelled. In so many respects.
For a start, Forrest has zoomed to the very top of the global list for player appearances this season. He has turned out in a remarkable 62 games for club and country across the campaign. A mere two years ago, former manager Ronny Deila was trumpeting the fact that Forrest had managed to break the 30-appearance total for the first time in four seasons.
This was a period during which his career had been derailed with injuries that prevented him regularly showing the promise glimpsed when he burst on the scene eight years ago… with a blistering strike against none other than Motherwell, only minutes after coming on as a late substitute.
Now Forrest has the opportunity this afternoon to claim a 14th major honour. That comes on the back of 11 months when he has racked up more than a fifth of all the games he has appeared in for Celtic and, with 17 goals, scored almost a quarter of his entire senior total.
“It’s incredible that I’ve gone on to win so many medals and it’s nice to hear that I’m one of the most decorated players at the club,” he said. “It shows you are doing things right and for me to be at a club like this for so long is a positive. I will think about that after my career but for now I just want to win as many games and trophies as possible.
“Celtic is a massive club and not many players get to play in the Champions league. When you do that then you gain a lot.
“There is a lot of pressure playing for Celtic, but I’m happy to have been here as long as I have. The standard needs to be high and I will keep pushing on to be here as long as I can.”
Forrest says he doesn’t feel tired despite his remarkable exertions. “No, you just want to keep playing once you get a momentum and rhythm,” he added. “You want big games and when you come back in a pre-season you understand that it’s going to be three games a week until Christmas. It is good because you want to keep playing – if you don’t play well in one game then you quickly have a chance to put it right. If you are constantly playing games then it shows you are successful.”
The Scotland international doesn’t get hung up over the fact that “a lot of people talk about” burn-out. Instead, he prefers to concern himself only with what is required of him by both manager and club.
“On the first day he just said that we had to work hard,” he said of Rodgers’ arrival in June 2016. “He knows that everyone has talent but if you can’t run about then you can’t show it for a long time in the game. He expects everyone to be as fit and lean as possible and to take it from there.
“We know we have a long season here, we know that from the start of pre-season. So we know how many games we can have with the Champions League as well.
“But there is a big squad here and I think that helps everyone at different times. The manager can make changes, but he always says the more games you play it is because of you being successful. We want to keep that up.
“The number of games I’ve played this season is what you want to do. You want to play at the highest level with Celtic and play in that Champions League. You want to play for your country as well.
“Those are things you want to achieve when you are coming through. I’m doing that just now but it just makes you want more.”