Neil Lennon has stated that this afternoon’s clash between Celtic and St Johnstone will come too soon for James Forrest.

There had been hope that James would’ve been back in the matchday squad for today’s game at McDiarmid Park. This came after the manager openly admitted that he could make the squad this afternoon [Scottish Sun].

Forrest has been out for five months and has required ankle surgery during that period. When he injured himself back in September, Celtic were in the driving seat for 10-in-a-row and in good form. However, when he returns, he’ll be arriving back into a team in crisis having fallen 21 points behind Rangers.

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Even so, his return to the squad is still welcome. But Lennon is now assessing him with Wednesday’s game against Aberdeen in mind, not today’s visit to Perth.

As quoted by the Scottish Sun, Lennon said: “James now has to do some straight line running.

“He’ll not make this weekend obviously but we’ll assess him for Aberdeen next week.”

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Lennon needs James Forrest to make his Celtic return ASAP

There’s no denying it – we’ve missed Forrest badly this season. Whilst I wouldn’t like to go as far as to say the season would’ve been different had he been fit, we’ve certainly been worse off without his contribution.

Remember, last season, James managed a sensational 38 direct goal contributions in 47 appearances. This was made up of 16 goals and 22 assists [Transfermarkt]. That’s a heck of a lot of points the right-winger helped win us during our nine-in-a-row campaign.

That’s not to say it’s too late to make a decent contribution. Celtic fans still have a burning desire to close the gap as much as possible on Rangers. We still want to land some punches on our rivals in the remaining two derbies. There could also still be the Scottish Cup to contest too.

Celtic James Forrest injury

Celtic winger James Forrest has been out with an injury / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

As for Lennon, Forrest’s return is anything but meaningless. He’ll feel he’s surviving on a game-by-game basis at Parkhead. A bad result in any game between now and the summer does himself no favours. He’ll hope a prolonged winning run between now and then can help rebuild his reputation.

Forrest’s return could be extremely beneficial to that end. He shone under Lennon last season, and outside of Brendan Rodgers, he’s played his best football under the current Celtic boss.

Hopefully he gets himself back involved in the next week. Celtic have missed him for far too long, but he won’t be making any sort of return this afternoon.

In other news, David Turnbull has talked up the Celtic player it’s impossible to take the ball from.

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