Ange Postecoglou could have big decision to make over Celtic mainstay James Forrest

By Euan Davidson

February 25, 2022

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou has always stressed that it’s important to have reliable Hoops veterans in and around the first-team, like Callum McGregor, Nir Bitton and James Forrest.

Forrest was hugely missed last season. Injured for the majority of the campaign, his typically enormous contributions in terms of goals and assists would’ve helped Neil Lennon and John Kennedy. It didn’t play out that way, of course.

The hope was, though, that even with Israeli winger Liel Abada coming back into the team, Forrest would have a big say on life at Celtic under Postecoglou. He even started the season relatively well, amidst further fitness concerns, and scored an important Hampden goal against St Johnstone.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Last night, though, was a performance from the likeable Hoops winger that we’ve seen too much of, of late. Forrest was once again ineffectual. Sad as it is to say, he’s had a really tough season. In 25 outings, he’s scored just 3 goals, assisting a further 3 [Transfermarkt]. Bearing in mind one of each came against FK Jablonec, it’s not inspiring form.

Though Abada has become the more obvious first-pick on the right of the attack, Forrest is meant to be Postecoglou’s valuable and reliable back-up option, at least. But last night showed the frustrations he’s had this season in a microcosm. He hasn’t looked sharp enough, he’s not been able to beat players like he used to, and there wasn’t really end product to speak of.

For a player chasing 100 goals and 100 assists for Celtic, with 20 trophy wins and over 400 appearances, we could be at a bit of a crossroads with James Forrest.

Bodø/Glimt 2-0 Celtic | LIVE Reaction

Bodø/Glimt 2-0 Celtic | LIVE Reaction
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

What can Ange Postecoglou do to revive James Forrest in a Celtic shirt?

Having tried Forrest on both the left and the right for Celtic this season, Ange Postecoglou has repeatedly tried to find ways to include the Hoops veteran in his team.

In his typical position, though, he’s not finding ways past opposition defenders. Defensively, the stamina doesn’t look to be there to cover both ends of the pitch. It was telling last night that when Maeda was coming back to cover defensively, Forrest wasn’t making the same impact on the other side.

It’s natural that, as he gets older, Forrest will lose a yard or two of pace. So what’s the long-term answer?

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

It might be worth trying Forrest more centrally. He’s slowed, but his technique is still there. He hasn’t lost his smarts, his quick passing ability, or his eye for goal. It’s just that his performances haven’t shown these attributes nearly enough. In games like last night, he didn’t offer Celtic a great deal, and it’s hard to implement a style like Postecoglou’s when that’s the case.

Simply put, everyone needs to be on it, at both ends of the park, for the style to work. James Forrest, sadly, just hasn’t adapted to that.

But none of that is to say that the Celtic manager should give up on him. No, not at all. There could be a rebirth, an extension to Forrest’s career that could come from bringing him into the midfield. Granted, it’s an area of the park where Celtic are strongest, especially having brought in Hatate, Ideguchi and O’Riley.

However, everyone will be needed as we negotiate the final stretch of what could still be a momentous season. There could yet be a way to utilise James Forrest in a different way. That, or Ange Postecoglou needs to find the remedy for Forrest’s continual lack of production.

Either way, it’s a challenge.

Read more: Celtic captain Callum McGregor on what Bhoys must do after Euro disappointment