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James Forrest was Celtic’s forgotten man – now he’s a must for Scotland squad

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JAMES FORREST has made a career out of timing his runs perfectly.

The Celtic winger’s knack of doing that could take him all the way to Germany this summer.

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Forrest was in the squad for the last championshipsCredit: SNS
He's been a huge player in Celts' run-in

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He’s been a huge player in Celts’ run-inCredit: Kenny Ramsay
The Scots boss has a decision to make next week

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The Scots boss has a decision to make next weekCredit: Getty

When Steve Clarke names his Euro 2024 squad on Wednesday, Forrest is one of the first names I’ll look for.

Fit, firing and in top form for Celtic, I’d be surprised if he’s not in the 26-man pool.

Still only 32, Forrest’s resurgence at club level in recent months deserves to be rewarded with a Euros call-up.

The doubters out there will claim Clarke doesn’t play with out-and-out wingers.

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But does that mean we simply shouldn’t take a player like Forrest who can offer that option?

Also, anyone watching him recently will know it’s doing him a disservice to say he’s ‘just’ a winger.

He’s clever on the ball, retains it well, can go both ways against defenders and also chip in with big goals.

Forrest would be a brilliant option out wide for Scotland but could easily play in one of the two attacking midfield positions for Clarke.

Celtic’s form undoubtedly improved when Cameron Carter-Vickers, Reo Hatate and Callum McGregor returned to full fitness.

But Forrest was a catalyst for Brendan Rodgers’ team seeing Rangers off and getting over the line to the title.

Inside Celtic stars’ wild dressing room celebrations as the title champagne flows at Rugby Park

It turns out the Celtic manager was right all those months ago when he said the long-serving player was still the club’s best winger after 14 years.

That, though, makes it all the more puzzling why he didn’t give him a regular start until recently.

Maybe that was all part of Rodgers’ masterplan. Maybe he wanted to keep Forrest fresh for the run-in.

If it was, I’m sure Brendan won’t be slow to give himself a pat on the back and say, ‘Well done’.

But whatever the reason the Celtic boss overlooked Forrest for so long, he eventually made the right call by restoring him to his side.

Whether operating on the left or right, the winger made a massive contribution in every game he played in.

That said so much about Forrest’s ability — but even more about his mentality.

At the turn of the year, he was frozen out and not even making matchday squads.

After everything he’d achieved at Celtic, and the fact the likes of Yang Hyun-jun were hardly impressing, it must have been frustrating for him.

But he has been the ultimate professional and reaped the rewards by hitting the ground running when he did get back in.

Greg Taylor said in an interview last week that Forrest was one of the best pros he had ever worked with.

Forrest and teammates Adam Idah, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Taylor celebrate the club's latest title

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Forrest and teammates Adam Idah, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Taylor celebrate the club’s latest titleCredit: SNS
The winger is a champion again

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The winger is a champion againCredit: SNS

He said his team-mate was meticulous with his stretching, preparation and application at training.

Looking at Forrest’s performances, it’s blindingly obvious that’s been the case.

He has been sharp and bright in attack but has also been capable of putting in a huge defensive shift for the team.

Watching Forrest in the last few weeks, that willingness to work off the ball really stood out.

And when he does get possession, you know you can trust him to use the ball wisely.

Also, when it comes to having the big-game temperament, like the Old Firm match last week, there are few better or more experienced than Forrest.

This must all come into Clarke’s thinking as he finalises his Euros squad in the coming days.

The Scotland manager is big on the culture within his group and Forrest won’t give him a second’s problem.

He’s experienced, low maintenance and a really good type. Quiet and professional.

What also goes in his favour is the fact Forrest has already worked with Clarke.

The last of the Celtic man’s 38 Scotland caps came at the last Euros finals.

He hasn’t featured since then for his country but that is purely down to a lack of game-time at club level.

During a period when Scotland have been ravaged by injury, the re-emergence of Forrest can be a major positive in the weeks ahead for Clarke.

The 32-year-old is no novice, he’s a time-served international player with a winning mentality.

Forrest is now second only to the great Bobby Lennox in the list of Celtic’s most decorated players.

With 23 major honours, and the prospect of more to come, he has already written his name in history.

Read more on the Scottish Sun

A few months ago, Forrest was in danger of becoming the forgotten man for Celtic — but he burst back on the scene again.

His Scotland career also looked over but Forrest can complete his comeback by winning a place at the Euros AND making an impact.

Keep up to date with ALL the latest news and transfers at the Scottish Sun football page

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