Candid Alan Forrest lifts lid on choosing Hearts over Dundee United and big January decision

Many players experience a ‘sliding doors’ moment in their career, when an opportunity either passes by or is grabbed gleefully with both hands. For Alan Forrest, this week’s European adventure with Hearts is proof if any were needed that he made the right choice.

Alan Forrest in action for Hearts during last weekend's Edinburgh derby.
Alan Forrest in action for Hearts during last weekend's Edinburgh derby.

Wind the clock back to January and the then Livingston winger was unsettled by interest and subsequently an accepted offer from St Johnstone. Permitted to hold discussions with the Perth club, the 25-year-old eventually opted to stay put and see out the campaign with the Lions.

Revitalised, the former Ayr United wide man netted five times for Livi in the second half of the campaign to enhance his burgeoning reputation and then seal a summer move to a Hearts team fresh from finishing third in the top-flight and destined for the Europa League.

In doing so, he turned down a move to today’s opponents, Dundee United. Meanwhile, the Saints he spurned at the turn of the year flirted with relegation before saving their skin only via a nerve-shredding play-off.

“For a lot of players things happen in different ways and you can’t really explain why,” Forrest said of his January decision. “That was one of those for me.

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“When I look back at the season I had last year I played most of the games and had a positive season, and I feel I kicked on and chipped in with more goals and assists. It feels like it has all worked out really well for me. I’m delighted.

“There were a few options [this summer] but as soon as I heard Hearts were interested that was the main one for me, that’s all I was focused on. There may have been interest from elsewhere but I was fixed on here. I’m delighted to be here and I just want to kick on.”

Whilst Hearts have been determined this week to keep their focus on this afternoon’s encounter with a United reeling from their humiliation against AZ Alkmaar, attention will instantly switch away from the Premiership once the full-time whistle blows. The Tynecastle outfit return to European football themselves for the first time in six years when they travel to face FC Zurich in Switzerland on Thursday.

For Forrest, it will be a novel experience but one he has longed for since his Ayr days, when it appeared only a distant desire. Although he has never played in Europe, however, he should have an idea of what to expect after watching brother James, inset, who has more than 100 appearances in continental competition with Celtic.

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“I’m buzzing to get the chance to play [in Europe],” he added. “I have come from Ayr and Livingston who haven’t had that chance. So to experience that is something I am really looking forward to.

“I’ve always wanted that, but I never thought too much about it. Obviously when you’re playing in League One and the Championship it feels far away but I never thought it was out of reach.

“Speaking to James and him telling me how good European football is, it’s good for me to have that there to push towards it.

“We’ve spoken about it because it’s new for me but he’s basically had it his whole career. He’s told me it’s tough to get used to at the start but he enjoyed it and he’s told me to embrace it.”