Last week Celtic winger James Forrest signed a four-year extension to his contract with the Premiership champions. Currently in his ninth season at the club, it is an agreement which will surely also lead to a testimonial for him.
Such a deal provides players with security in the long term but the 27-year-old is more concerned with the immediate future, with the Europa League tie against Red Bull Salzburg in Austria on Thursday at the forefront of his mind.
Leigh Griffiths’ late goal gave Celtic a 1-0 victory at home to Rosenborg in their opening Group B tie, while Salzburg left Germany with an impressive 3-2 victory over RB Liepzig.
“We played them four years ago in Europe, but I think they’ve changed about half of their team from back then,” said Forrest. “We will start looking into them more over the next couple of days. Any game in Europe is tough and this is definitely going to be a tough game. Red Bull have won their first nine league games as well, so they will be confident.”
For Celtic to emerge unscathed from that examination, their defence will need to continue to be as parsimonious as it has been in recent weeks. The 2-1 defeat at Kilmarnock has been the sole blip during a sequence of seven clean sheets from eight matches.
“The defenders and the goalkeeper have been defending well but we have also been defending as a team,” said Forrest. “I think we have seen in the last two games that, if we can keep a clean sheet, then we will always have the players going forward to create chances and it’s then just about taking them.”
Dilatory defending saw them eliminated from the premier competition by AEK Athens in August, but Brendan Rodgers has underlined the importance of going as deep into the Europa League as possible.
“The manager has said we want to be in Europe after Christmas, especially after the disappointment of going out of the Champions League,” said Forrest. “We are in a very hard group in the Europa League, but we’ve already beaten Rosenborg.
“Everyone is looking forward to this campaign and the ultimate aim is to still be in Europe come the New Year.”
Forrest, who hasn’t scored since July, was thrilled to witness fellow winger Scott Sinclair end his own goal drought with the back-heeled winner against Aberdeen on Saturday and he fully expects that to prove a turning point for the 29-year-old.
“You can be positive and do something special and Scott’s goal at the weekend was really good,” he said. “But even a lucky goal or a deflection is equally welcome and it can do the trick for you as well. It’s all about being positive and confident and that’s what we want Scott to be.
“I was absolutely delighted for him – you could see that the full team was. We know what he can do and it’s important to have him back and scoring. You could tell from the celebration on Saturday that everyone was buzzing for him. He was emotional afterwards but everyone is right behind him. I think he’s old enough to have gone through this already in football. There are ups and downs along the way and it’s how you bounce back from that so coming on at the weekend and scoring will do him the world of good.”
l James Forrest was speaking at the opening of the new Celtic Store in Braehead.