Footballing opposites haven’t been attractive to James Forrest this past year. Not when it comes to derbies against Rangers for the Celtic winger, or his Scotland experiences. The 27-year-old is convinced that the lows can be the fuel to fire him to the highs, though.
Forrest, pictured, believes the bitter experience of the 1-0 loss against Ibrox in December, which was at the “opposite end” from scoring his first goal against Rangers as Celtic won the league in the final derby of last season, provided the motivation to establish a league lead that now seems an unassailable 10 points over today’s Parkhead visitors. The Scotland attacker believes the lunchtime encounter is the opportunity to make amends for a loss that lingered over the new year period.
In the international arena, meanwhile, Forrest’s isn’t interested in pointing the finger at Alex McLeish, whose grip on the Scotland manager’s post appears tenuous. That’s despite his five-goal exploits in the November wins over Albania and Israel giving way to the winger being benched for the win over San Marino that followed the abysmal 3-0 thumping in Kazakhstan.
Forrest believes sores must be nursed in order to be put things right for club and country and he intends to start today.
“As a team and individually, I think [the reason] why we were so disappointed [with the last Rangers game] is we know we can play miles better. We just didn’t turn up and didn’t get going or have any clear-cut chances to do anything to them. We were disappointed for a good wee while after that but now we have a chance to redeem ourselves and change it on Sunday.”
Forrest was recently described as “a Celtic legend” by interim manager Neil Lennon. He says that was “nice to hear” but not something to dwell on.
He appreciates his talent may no longer be being taken for granted after his five-goal burst for Scotland and doesn’t feel McLeish is guilty of that. Neither does he feel the Scotland manager should be held responsible for the desperate displays during the Euro 2020 double-header.
“The last camp for Scotland [in November] was the best one I had been involved in,” Forrest said. “The changing room after was like a real club mentality, and I’ve never seen that with a Scotland group before. It was really positive, and then the next camp it just goes right down to the opposite.
“I think you have to look more at the group. You can’t just point fingers at one player or staff members, we are all in it together. We had a real positive couple of days leading up to the Kazakhstan game, everyone was feeling good, and there was a real positivity among the group. It was a shock to us being two-nil down after ten minutes and I don’t think we had any fight to get back into the game.
“He [McLeish] said that he was always going to make changes for the San Marino game.
“When you go away you make yourself available for every game and you want to be involved, but he said there was a good chance I would come on. I still managed to do that and play my part.”