Celtic’s unsung hero is the man for the big occasion

With the signing of Mohamed Elyounoussi on loan from Southampton, Celtic have a £16m goalscoring winger to their already impressive armoury.

If the Norwegian internationalist can recapture his form from Molde and Basel, Celtic will again have a left-sided attacker to rival the quality of Scott Sinclair in his stunning first season.

In Odsonne Edouard, Celtic have a forward who has the lot. An ability to run at and bamboozle defences, goals from inside and outside the box, and the confidence that comes with leading the Celtic line after patiently waiting for his chance.

No histrionics, no ill-discipline, just a player on a sharp upward curve, scoring goals in big games, winning matches, trophies and international recognition.

And on the right, there’s James Forrest, one of Celtic’s great unsung heroes of recent times. It’ll be a rare day when you hear his name reverberate around the pubs and stadiums, but the winger is growing in importance as each season passes.

Forrest broke through as a youngster under Neil Lennon, scoring on his debut in May 2010 against Motherwell.

Celtic had to fight hard to keep their emerging talent, with Spurs sniffing around over a couple of seasons, but Forrest was more than happy to stay at the club he’d joined as a youth.

With 17 winners medals to his name and, again, looking to pledge his future to the club, Celtic have got more from the player than any mooted £10m transfer fee might have brought.

Yet, suffering from injuries and inconsistency, there were times when it looked like speed-merchant Forrest might not achieve his full potential in the hoops.

He was, however, still capable of crucial interventions. His late goal against Karagandy in 2013 sealed an amazing turnaround from a 2-0 away leg deficit and secured Celtic’s qualification for the Champions League.

Two years ago, he would repeat the feat, playing in a more central role against Rosenborg, where he nearly tore the net off to once again fire Celtic into Europe’s premier competition.

By that time, Brendan Rodgers was in charge. When the Irishman walked in the door, it looked as if Forrest might wave to him going the other way. The winger, however, was transformed under Rodgers.

One of his stand-out performances, ironically, would come in a defeat to Bayern Munich. Forrest’s confidence would continue to grow, however, and as well as adding consistency, he would also find the net with increasing accuracy.

Having never scored against any version of Rangers, Forrest got rid of that particular monkey off his back in 2018 with a brilliant solo goal as Celtic demolished the Ibrox side and clinched a magnificent seven in a row.

He again popped up against the Ibrox men to score the winner to keep the Ibrox side at arm’s length in a tumultuous second half of the season following Rodgers’ inglorious exit.

Any worries that Forrest’s form would falter following Rodgers departure have been swept aside. He’s already scored six goals this season, all of them coming in his last seven games.

Added to 17 goals for Celtic in each of his last two seasons, including strikes in semi-finals, cup finals and European qualifiers, Forrest is another player who can increasingly be relied upon for the big occasion.

Ibrox marks another one, but if Celtic’s Mr Reliable continues his current form, the fans will speak his name with due reverence even if we’ve yet to find a song that does the same.


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