Celtic boss Neil Lennon admits it’s easy to take the likes of James Forrest and Callum McGregor for granted because they’re such consistent performers.
The pair played a total of 133 matches for club and country combined last season and shared the majority of the yearly awards. They’ve both been key stars for Celtic and also hail from the youth academy.
And Lennon says he’s got to the stage where he’s just expecting top drawer performances whenever they cross the white line.
“Forrest and McGregor are so consistent,” he told the Daily Record. “They play that well all the time that you sort of take it for granted after a while and you can’t do that.
“You’re almost shocked if they have an off day, that’s how good their consistency is.
“They’re two players who are very, very important to us, particularly this season as they have been in the past. They are fine examples for the rest and Ajer has real leadership qualities and he’s showing that as well.”
Forrest and McGregor have both changed their games
It’s pretty remarkable that neither McGregor nor Forrest were even first-team starters not so long ago. Both made really good initial impressions after bursting onto the scene in their teenage years before drifting out a little. Neither were totally frozen out but they certainly weren’t first picks when Brendan Rodgers entered the fray in 2016.
He turned Forrest into a winger who simply cared more. He taught him the defensive side of the game and it made him a better all round player as a result. One of the winger’s biggest other changes has been his goal return.
By the end of season 2016/2017 Forrest had 38 goals. That was over seven seasons, or an average of just over five a campaign. His last two seasons have seen him bag 34 more goals and he’s already netted two more this year.
McGregor’s change has been to drop deeper and act as more of an all-round midfielder. The 26-year-old doesn’t get forward nearly as much as he did in his early days but he now offers far more to Celtic in the middle of the park.
He hardly ever gets caught out of position and is always in the right place to break up opposition attacks and start Celtic moves.