Free-scoring James Forrest inspired by Scott Sinclair

Celtic's James Forrest has scored 11 goals already this season, his best ever haul. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Celtic's James Forrest has scored 11 goals already this season, his best ever haul. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
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They are on opposite flanks but Scott Sinclair and James Forrest are proving to be the central figures in Celtic’s push for a seventh consecutive title win this season.

The two wingers now have 26 goals between them in the current campaign – 15 for Sinclair and 11 for Forrest – after scoring in Wednesday night’s 3-1 win over Hamilton Accies at Celtic Park.

They are the only members of Brendan Rodgers’ squad to have reached double figures so far, which can be partially attributed to the manager’s rotation of strikers Leigh Griffiths, Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Edouard.

But it is also clear that the manner in which Rodgers asks his team to play gives those in the wide areas of his attack both the responsibility and opportunity to contribute a greater ratio of goals themselves.

Forrest is relishing his more prolific role in the side, having gone beyond single digits with a seasonal goal tally for the first time in his career.

The 26-year-old admits he has sought to take a leaf out of Sinclair’s book – the Englishman also scored 25 goals last season as he became Scotland’s Player of the Year – by becoming much more than just a supplier of chances for others.

“This is the most I’ve ever scored in a season and I just want to keep going,” said Forrest. “We’re only halfway through the season and I want to get better.

“When the manager came in 18 months ago he let the forward players have a bit of freedom and he wants everyone to add goals to their game. I’m glad I’ve done that to contribute more to the team.

“It’s a team game and for the manager it’s good to get goals from all over the park. Scoring helps my confidence and I just want it to continue.

“I’ve not thought about how many I could score this season. This is the first year I’ve hit double figures so the target for me is just the next game and to try and add another goal. I want to score as many as I can.

“Scotty’s record last season was tremendous and even this season he’s scoring and is always a threat. I think that’s what I’ve copied this season but I need to keep adding goals.”

Sinclair’s form has occasionally been questioned this season, perhaps unfairly in comparison to his remarkable debut campaign with the Scottish champions.

There are certainly no doubts about him in the minds of his team-mates as they continue to enjoy the presence of a player who has now scored 40 goals in 80 appearances for Celtic, an exceptional ratio for a winger.

“In the changing room, we don’t think Scotty’s not been as good,” added Forrest. “He’s our top scorer and looks sharp. He’s ready for every game and he’s a great player to have in the team.”

Forrest has resisted any temptation, meanwhile, to mischievously point out to either Griffiths or Dembele that he is ahead of them in the Celtic scorers’ chart.

“No chance,” he laughed. “With the number of goals they will score, I’m not saying anything to them! When they play, they are always a goal threat.”

Also getting in on the scoring act for Celtic against Hamilton was midfielder Olivier Ntcham with his fifth of the campaign and Forrest has been impressed by the French midfielder’s impact since his summer arrival from Manchester City.

“He’s looked really good in the last few games,” added Forrest. “He’s a good player and he’s chipped in with a couple of goals and that’s brilliant for everyone.

“Even when he came in at the start of the season, he played well. We have competition for places in the middle of the park but when he’s come in, he has done well.

“There’s no language barrier
as he speaks English really well now and that’s a plus for him. He is a quiet lad but he’s good with all the boys and speaks away fine. The fact his English is so good means he’s settled in.”

Celtic have five more Premiership games before the winter break at the start of January and Forrest has no fears about their capacity to cope with the hectic schedule this month.

“We’ve got a strong squad with players for every position and the manager knows he can rotate it, “ he said. “We’re not tired and we’re just looking forward to the next game.”

That next game sees Celtic travel to Edinburgh to face Hearts at Tynecastle on 
Sunday, a venue with happy memories for Rodgers’ squad, who clinched the title in 
Gorgie last season with a 5-0 victory.

“It’s always a tough game there and their crowd get behind them but we had a couple of good results there last season,” said Forrest.

“We’ll also take confidence and positivity from the win over Hamilton into it. We know it will be hard and we need to start well.

“The Celtic support at Tynecastle is always incredible and it does help us. These are the games you want to play in because the atmosphere is always really good right from the first minute.

“As a winger you are close to the fans and the noise– but that’s part and parcel of a game there and it’s good to play at Tynecastle, especially if we win. Hopefully I can be part of that again on Sunday.”