James Forrest shows Celtic big game credentials that earn him Sportscene 'no brainer' Scotland status

James Forrest -Credit:PA
James Forrest -Credit:PA

James Forrest's inspired displays for Celtic in the past eight days have got two pundits urging Steve Clarke to hand him a Scotland recall just in time for the European Championships in the summer.

In his first start since lining up in a 2-1 win over St Mirren on November 1, the 32-year-old was the Hoops match winner on Sunday, scoring both of his side's goals in a 2-1 win against Dundee that maintained Celtic's three point lead at the top of the Premiership with four games to play.

That brace came just eight days after the experienced winger was deployed as a substitute to devastating effect in last Saturday's Scottish Cup semi-final meeting with Aberdeen at Hampden, with Forrest netting Celtic's second goal in the thrilling 3-3 draw that the cup holders eventually came out on top in via a penalty shootout. Since making his national team debut in 2011, Forrest has gone onto score five times in 38 caps for Scotland, including a memorable hat trick in a Nations League victory against Israel in 2018.

The Lennoxtown youth graduate last represented his country at the delayed Euro 2020 finals in the summer of 2021, but his lack of game time for the Hoops in recent seasons has seen him fall down the pecking order. However, Sportscene pundits Stephen Craigan and Michael Stewart are in no doubt that the veteran should be on the plane to Germany next summer, with the former making reference to Celtic gaffer Brendan Rodgers' recent claim that Forrest is still the best wide man he has at his disposal.

Craigan said: "People are having the same discussion around Steve Clarke having Craig Gordon as his second choice, even though he is not playing at Hearts, because of his big game experience.

"James Forrest epitomises that. He is fresh and hasn't played a 50 game season where he is gonna be flagging come mid-June.

"He is feeling good about himself, scoring goals and feels like he's an important part of Celtic. It almost makes a mockery of Celtic, that they signed four wingers in the summer but James Forrest is still the best one.

"He is the most decorated Scottish player still playing and knows what it is like to play in and affect big games. If you are Steve Clarke chasing a goal in the Euros and are thinking 'who can I turn to? Who has been here before and done it?' James Forrest, 100 per cent."

Clarke's options at right-wing back for the finals have suffered a huge blow with Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson both facing a race against the clock to get themselves fit again, but four-time Scotland cap Stewart reckons Forrest would be more than capable of filling that role.

He added: "It's a no brainer for me. With the problems we are having at right-wing-back at the moment, it is somewhere that James Forrest could cover if he was in the squad. I would 100 per cent have him in the squad. Even if it was a 23-man squad never mind 26."