John Kennedy pinpoints the unseen work James Forrest has been doing at Celtic

By David Walton

April 4, 2021

Celtic interim boss John Kennedy has pinpointed the unseen work done behind-the-scenes by James Forrest after his goalscoring return to the starting line-up.

Hoops icon Forrest, making his first start since September 2020, made the difference against Falkirk last night. With Celtic struggling initially to get their Scottish Cup breakthrough, Forrest popped up with a second-half strike to set the Hoops on their way.

In the end, Celtic eased their way to a dominant 3-0 win against the League One side. Unfortunately, of course, we haven’t had Jamesy’s influence all season. He could’ve easily been the difference between winning and losing the 10. But he’s back now and clearly ready to provide immediately.

And Kennedy couldn’t big up his influence enough as he touched on the hidden work Forrest has been putting in over recent months.

“We’ve missed him”

Speaking to Celtic TV, Kennedy said: “Listen, James has been terrific in terms of coming back. He’s had a tough time. He’s had to work ever so hard but he’s the ultimate professional. I’ve worked with James for a long time now and a lot of people don’t see what he does.

“He’s in there every day. Days off? He’s in the gym, he’s getting recovery, working with people and trying to be as professional as he can. So I’m delighted he’s back, we’ve missed him. We certainly have missed him.

“I think you see tonight – he always carries a threat. In terms of you can be really well set up and well-drilled, but when you have eliminators it breaks down anything. In terms of tonight, you get James near the box then you know you’ve got an opportunity to score. He probably did more than I expected in terms of minutes, but with the way the game was going I was happy for him to give me the nod when he thought he was running out of juice a little bit.”

John Kennedy spot on to highlight James Forrest importance; one glance at the stats proves his point

It’s so easy to get frustrated with Forrest when he’s fit. He’s the kind of footballer you always think can do more. But that’s not to do with sheer laziness, it’s more to do with the quality he actually contains.

When that level of quality is removed from your team, particularly from the wide areas, you notice a significantly lesser threat. For example, how frustrating has it been this season watching Ryan Christie cut in from the right side? Considering he hasn’t found his range for most of the season, it’s been predictable and counter-productive.

Forrest’s stats read as impressively as you would expect. Take last season for example. The Scotland international managed 16 goals and 22 assists in 47 appearances [Transfermarkt]. That’s frightening considering the season was curtailed. What Forrest would’ve ended up with was anyone’s guess.

James Forrest celebrates scoring for Celtic vs Falkirk (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images).

Look at some of the games in which he provided a cutting edge also. Hamilton. Hibernian. St Johnstone. St Mirren. Aberdeen. Teams we’ve dropped points against this season due to having a lack of a goalscoring threat.

Now we have that back, don’t be surprised if we go on a powerful run of form between now and the summer. And don’t be surprised if we take the Scottish Cup either with James playing a key role in our team from now on.

That’s just the difference sheer serial winners like Forrest can make. The importance of having him back simply can’t be emphasised enough.

In other news, we discuss Vasilis Barkas’ reported mindset on his Celtic future is a big boost for the club.