“I’ve had a few managers down the years, but this gaffer is just brilliant,” James Forrest

It’s quite incredible really when you look at the medal haul James Forrest has gathered for himself as a Celtic player for his entire career. He’s won 11 league titles that’s 10 more than theRangers, six Scottish Cups that’s five more than theRangers and five League Cups, a trophy that theRangers have never won in their history and of course he’s seen off the old Ibrox club in his time wearing the Hoops.

James Forrest is congratulated by teammate Virgil van Dijk after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Group match between Celtic and Ajax at Celtic Park Stadium on October 22, 2013 (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

It’s fair to say that Jamsie wasn’t a fist pick winger under Ange Postecolgou, amid injury problems over both seasons that the Australian was in charge but also because players that the current Tottenham manager signed for the wide positions at Celtic all seemed to do rather well. Yet even during that period Jamesy still contributed, it was his goal against St Johnstone at Hampden that made the difference in the League Cup semi-final in November 2021 that took Celtic through and gave Ange Postecoglou the chance to win the first of five trophies his side delivered over his two seasons in charge.

And then there was that hat-trick against Hibs which took Jamesy beyond the one hundred goals for Celtic.

With Celtic heading back from Japan and with four, soon to be five new signings through the door, the attention turns to the match against Wolves in Dublin on Saturday then it’s the big one on Tuesday 1st August when the Bhoys, including all the new signings, will play their first game of the season against Athletic Club from Bilbao – that wonderful football club which has been a friend to Celtic over the years and we should never forget their outstanding tribute to Billy McNeill a few years ago. That was just incredible.

 James Forrest of Celtic after scoring the winning goal during the UEFA Champions League Play-off second leg match between Celtic and Shakhter Karagandy at Celtic Park on August 28, 2013 (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Actually I’ve just been in Bilbao and visited the stadium. It’s an incredible city and it’s fair to say that Celtic is popular amongst their supporters!

The occasion is of course the well deserved James Forrest testimonial and hopefully there’s a big crowd at Paradise for the one club club Celtic legend, to welcome Brendan back and to give the new signing their first taste of Paradise and also to show our appreciation to Athletic Club for their Cesar tribute as another one club man.

Jamesy has been speaking ahead of his testimonial, it’s probably fair to say that being high profile in the media is not his favoured situation but it’s part and parcel of the testimonial duties, which these days are as rare as hen’s teeth in football.

Looking back at what he’s already achieved in the game and his own personal medal haul, playing only for Celtic surprises even Jamesy, a player who caused not a single bit of bother for any manager he’s worked under from Neil Lennon through to Ange Postecolgou and now Brendan Rodgers for a second time. “It’s been incredible for me. I’ve seen players come to Celtic later in their careers when they haven’t won any trophies,” Forrest said as reported by Scottish Sun.

“People ask me if it was frustrating not playing as much as I would have liked last season. But they have to realise I’m older now. I have played a lot of games throughout my whole career, and won a lot of trophies.

Celtic v Hibernian – cinch Premiership – James Forrest left with the match ball after scoring a hat-trick during the cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Saturday October 15, 2022. Photo Steve Welsh

“It’s been a really good career. I want to keep playing as much as I can, and it’s hard weighing everything up sometimes, but being at this club has been unbelievable. I’ve never got blase about that, about winning trophies and picking up medals,” Jamesy said.

“Sometimes the press guys tell me that I’ve reached a particular milestone, or achieved something, and it’s always good to hear. I’m never thinking about that sort of thing. But when someone mentions something then I stop and think about how unbelievable it is.

“When you get older you realise how hard it is being at a club like Celtic. It’s quite scary to think how long I’ve been here now. Coming through the youth team, too, you are always expected to win. Then when you do that, it’s like, ‘How many did you win by?’. “That’s the mentality and how you’re brought up.

20th November 2021; Hampden, 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

“So it’s like you always feel you need to keep winning and striving for more. Also, when you don’t win one of the trophies it also makes you appreciate the ones you do.”

Even when Ange Postecoglou wasn’t picking him, there was no chance that Forrest’s toys would be heading out of the pram and there was no knocking at the manager’s door, something Forrest knows that simply wasn’t the done thing under the previous Celtic manager.

Celtic v Hibernian – James Forrest with the matchball Photo Steve Welsh

“Every manager is different. The last gaffer was different in his way, but then you knew where you stood. You knew what was going on and just had to work hard in training. He wasn’t really the type of manager you could go and chap his door. You just had to keep working hard in training and that was fine,” Jamesy revealed.

“But I felt involved last season. I maybe didn’t start as many games as I would have wanted to, but we have so many good players and the team was flying. I felt I did contribute at times when I was picked. And I definitely felt like I learned under him.

15.03.2015. Hampden Park, Scottish League Cup Final. versus Celtic. Goalscorers James Forrest and Kris Commons with the trophy  Photo Vagelis Georgariou

“I enjoyed the last two years and took so many positives from that time. If you ask any player, they will always say they would liked to have played more. I was fit for the first half of the season right up until February time and felt involved.

“I just didn’t start as much as I’d have liked, and that as was a bit frustrating. But the team was winning and flying and I had to wait for a chance. That opportunity didn’t come a lot for me because the players ahead of me were doing so well. But the feeling was good among the team and it was still great being a part of it,” Forrest added.

29.12.2015. Celtic training ground, Lennoxtown, Scotland. Scottish Premier League. Celtic prepare for their match against Dundee on 30th December. James Forrest and Tom Rogic. Photo Vagelis Georgariou

The only time that James Forrest ever contemplated leaving Celtic was just before the arrival of Brendan Rodgers in may 2016 after things had gone rather stale at the club amid dressing room issues with former boss Ronny Deila. But that thought was short lived and soon passed after Brendan walked through the door.

“Maybe in my head the most uncertainty I’ve had was when the gaffer now was coming in to the club the first time. But then within a week I knew there was no questions on my side.

“I knew what I wanted and it wasn’t just me, either. There were other boys at that time who raised their game, and he got a lot out of them. He really brought everyone’s potential out of them. So with that in mind, I think it’s really good for the young boys here now that the gaffer has come back.

Photo: Jane Barlow

“Everyone did really well under the last manager, obviously. But there are a few of them who can kick on again now, and that’s great for the club.

“I’ve had a few managers down the years, but this gaffer is just brilliant at the man-management side of the game. Tactically, he’s fantastic as well. He’s just a top manager all round, and he makes you feel good about yourself.

“He knows everyone’s qualities and makes the boys really believe in themselves. And it’s not just at Celtic where he’s done that. So the boys who haven’t worked with him before will find it’s really good.”

There’s clearly a close bond between the manager and players like Callum McGregor and James Forrest, who were of course prominent players in Brendan Rodgers 7/7 trophy success the first time around, including of course that never to be forgotten Treble winning Invincible season. However that doesn’t mean that Forrest is expecting any special treatment from Brendan Rodgers this time around.

“You can’t think like that. As much as he knows me, he’s going to do what’s best for the team,” Jamesy said.

And speaking about his testimonial match against Athletic Club, Jamesy is certainly a little uncomfortable at going to be the centre of attention on the night.

“It’s going to be a great occasion. It will be class for my family, too. “I’m looking forward to it, but at the same time I’m also looking forward to when it’s done! Not many players are fortunate enough to get a testimonial these days.”

James Forrest’s estimonial match will take place on Tuesday, 1st August , with a 7.30pm kick-off. He has decided a significant proportion of funds raised will be donated to two charities, Kilbryde Hospice and Celtic FC Foundation, the charitable arm of Celtic Football Club. For ticket information, go to celticfc.com.

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

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