Forrest began the season in bright form and it became clear that he was building on his first team introduction the previous season by regularly getting the better of opposition defenders with his direct style and blistering pace over a short distance. The trick for any winger getting to the byeline is not to put the cross in too early.
Defenders these days will simply block the cross 9 times out of 10. Forrest’s sharpness and patience enables him to wait until the defender thinks he has run the ball over the bye line before sneaking in a a ball that will cause havoc in the defence and allow the Celtic forwards to pounce.
This was not the only pleasing aspect of Forrest’s play in 2011-12. With Kris commons suffering a setback in form the reliance on Forrest as a goal provider was increased but Forrest also showed he is an excellent finisher scoring 9 goals in his curtailed season. A decent return for a supposed ‘wide man’. That term in itself disguised the role that Forrest adopted in games as he worked hard with the rest of the Celtic attacking unit to unlock opposition defences.
By the time we reached December Forrest had picked up two SPL player of the month awards and was more than playing his part in the extended winning run Celtic had embarked upon to claw back the 15 point deficit in the title race. During this run Forrest scored crucial goals like the one against St Mirren in January when it looked like the deadlock may not be broken.
Forrest’s cool demeanour is exactly the right temperament needed when the Scottish game still has a tendency to mete out meaty challenges to anyone who possesses a desire for creativity in their play. Although it is not a pretty sight seeing forrest hacked down by frustrated defenders he often leaves Celtic in decent set piece positions as a consequence of the oppositions poor tackles on Forrest.
In what turned out to be a tough Europa League Group for Celtic Forrest showed his confidence and ability to adapt to that higher level by making telling contributions in games. This higher level of play attracted attention from the media speculators about Forrest’s future at Celtic but the young player has expressed his desire to stay at the club which can only be a positive as Neil Lennon’s squad grows and flourishes as a collective unit. It is Forrest’s ability and footballing brain which has enabled him to command a regular place in the team ahead of the likes of McCourt and has seen other wide men like McGinn seek their career futures elsewhere.
Forrest has all the attributes to go on and be a player who is etched easily in the minds of Celtic supporters through memorable performances and hard work. As Bertie Auld mused, Forrest typically puts bums on seats with his talent.
So it was no surprise that by the end of the season that Forrest was picking up award after award as the best young player in Scotland. It is also the reason why in a season of stand out individuals pulling the jersey on that Forrest is placed at number 4 in the Celtic Underground top 10 players of the year.
So after a season of success James Forrest has built a strong platform to take his Celtic career forward and in doing so he can provide many more memorable moments for the support.
And all this at just 20.
Now about that nose, James?