“He is no spring chicken anymore. But, he has still shown he has the quality,” Simon Donnelly

Simon Donnelly reckons that Celtic veteran James Forrest still has plenty to offer at his old club.. As Celtic struggled at Paisley last Sunday, Ange Postecoglou looked to his bench to attempt to correct his own selection errors but overlooked the most experienced player at his disposal who perhaps could have turned the match back in Celtic’s favour.

Forrest, at 31 has been in the Celtic first team sqaud for 14 seasons and that longevity at a top club like Celtic only happens to players with the quality and consistency to merit such an incredible record serving under Neil Lennon (twice), Ronny Deila, Brendan Rodgers and now Ange Postecoglou.

20th November 2021; Hampden Park, Glasgow City, Scotland; Scottish League Cup semi-final, Celtic versus St Johnstone; James Forrest of Celtic celebrates after he opens the scoring in the 73rd minute making it 1-0 to Celtic

And while Ange has relied heavily on Celtic’s other long-term star Callum McGregor, Forrest has only ever been used sparingly and has yet to show the current Celtic manager what he is capable of. With plenty of options available to Postecoglou for Celtic’s wide-spots with Jota, Abada, Maeda and now Hakšabanović all vying for a starting spot, it seems that James Forrest has fallen quite far down the pecking order, for now at least.

And then there’s Mikey Johnston, an undoubted Celtic talent, but who has struggled for fitness and consistency over the past few years and always seemed to be, in recent times desperate to prove himself in games rather than relaxing and letting his ability speak for itself.

Postecoglou has not lost faith in Johnston though and reckons his season-long loan at Portugal’s Primeira Liga club Vitória Guimarães will allow the winger, like Forrest a product of the Celtic Academy,  to get the game-time needed to rediscover his form so that he can return to Celtic in the summer to join in the competition for a starting place.

Former Celt, Donnelly, knows just hard it is going to be for James Forrest to win back his starting spot in this Celtic side, but he refuses to write the experienced winger off.

Ross County v Celtic – Premier Sports Cup – Second Round – Global Energy Stadium Celtic s James Forrest celebrates scoring their side s fourth goal of the game during the Premier Sports Cup second round match at the Global Energy Stadium, Dingwall.  Wednesday August 31, 2022. Photo Trevor Martin

“He still has a part to play. He has his work cut out trying to get in the team with the guys around him. He is no spring chicken anymore. But, he has still shown he has the quality. He wouldn’t be here otherwise,” Donnelly said, as reported by Glasgow Times.

“If I am a young boy then I would be picking the brain of James and Harry Kewell. It is an invaluable experience watching how these guys go about their business and training with them.

“When I was coming through it was great to be around guys like Paul McStay and John Collins. I’m sure the young boys will be doing exactly the same with James. James has shown time and time again he is a big time player and he will feature at different times.”

James Forrest scores against Ross County in the Premier Sports Cup second round match at the Global Energy Stadium, Dingwall.  Wednesday August 31, 2022. Photo Trevor Martin

James Forrest is closing in on reaching 100 goals and 100 assists for Celtic, he’s two short in one and one in the other and by achieving that he’ll join Henrik Larsson and Jimmy Johnstone on managing to reach such a magnificent milestone for Celtic. All he needs is some minutes from Ange but as Simon Donnelly outlines, that is going to be far from easy given the performances of the likes of Jota and Liel Abada.

“I was impressed with Jota last season and he has looked the part this season. Wide players sometimes have the tricks and flicks but not the end product. He does. You just have to look at his assists and his goals,” Donnelly said.

 Sead Haksabanovic beats Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Dani Carvajal during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match between Celtic and Real Madrid, at the Celtic Park on September 6, 2022.  (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

“He is kicking on and I can only see Celtic getting better. Abada has just turned 20 and Jota is in his early 20s. Matt O’Riley is another young one and Ange is building a good team. They are exciting to watch. I have covered most games since Ange came in and they are progressing all the time. The manager has recruited well again and we will see more of Hakšabanović in the next few weeks.

“We are seeing lots of goals from all over the park and I see the confidence and belief in the players. A lot of them are young, guys like Abada and Jota, but they have grown. They had an experience of Europe last year and results wise it wasn’t the best. But, it will stand them in good stead for this season.”

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

1 Comment

Leave A Reply