The 'mad' Celtic stats for James Forrest that left Matt O'Riley stunned as he demands more respect for winger

-Credit:SNS Group
-Credit:SNS Group

Matt O’Riley reckons Celtic’s Mr Nice Guy James Forrest doesn’t get the credit he deserves for a blockbuster Parkhead career.

Wide man Forrest has sparked into life late in the season and his recent displays have helped fire the Hoops into pole position in the Premiership. The 32-year-old has spent long spells this year on the sidelines but answered a recent SOS from boss Brendan Rodgers and has repaid his gaffer with interest.

Forrest struck a stunner in the Scottish Cup semi-final win against Aberdeen and backed it up with a deadly double in the crucial league win at Dundee. The wide man was handed a start in Saturday’s 3-0 stroll against Hearts and produced another impressive display to send Celtic into this weekend’s Old Firm showdown on a high. Forrest’s recent performances have received rave reviews and it’s set the attacker up for the chance to add to his incredible medal haul.

The academy product has won 22 major trophies with Celts – level with former teammate Scott Brown and just one behind club legend Billy McNeill. He’s also bang in the frame to be handed a major role in this weekend’s Old Firm showdown at Celtic Park as Brendan Rodgers’s men look to take a massive step towards the title.

O’Riley – who narrowly missed out on the PFA Scotland player of the year award at the weekend – is adamant Forrest doesn’t quite get the respect he deserves. But the Hoops hero certainly gets it from his Parkhead pals.

O’Riley said: “It’s pretty mad how much he’s won. He’s just such a really nice guy as well which is the most important thing. He’s just so down to earth. Even when he wasn’t playing regularly at the start of the season, he was still such a nice guy at the training ground. He was a nice guy to be around, never toxic towards anyone.

“If anyone deserves to be playing and be playing well it’s him. He’s also just very good at football which helps us. You don’t get 100 goals and assists for Celtic if you’re not half decent. He’s proven that over time and I think he deserves a lot more respect than he gets in my opinion.”

Forrest’s recent form has sparked debate on whether the wide man could force his way into Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad for the Euros. Club boss Rodgers is not too fussed either way but there’s a clamber from some to get the experienced forward on board, with the likes of ex-Celt Pack Bonner not thinking there’s a chance having previously feared he’d left his run too late.

The former Parkhead no.1 said: “Forrest looks fit, I know Rodgers took him off on Saturday and brought him off at Dundee also last week, but he does look sharp. Brendan might be saving him for the Euros! If he got there, we would all be absolutely delighted for him, but he’s a great lad, and he’s been around this game for so long, and he deserves to go to a championship.”

O’Riley is hoping to land a spot at the Euros with Denmark and he’s convinced Clarke should hand his Hoops buddy a golden ticket for Germany. Captain Callum McGregor is a shoo in for the Scotland squad, with Greg Taylor and Anthony Ralston also expected to be named in the 26 man group.

Celtic's Callum McGregor
Celtic's Callum McGregor -Credit:SNS Group

O’Riley would love to see Forrest join the party and he’s convinced he’s worth a crack. The playmaker – who notched from the spot at the end of a stunning show in the Jambos win – said: “That would be awesome. You can’t say he doesn’t deserve it to some extent. He’s been so good in the last couple of months.

“They should take him because he’s very good. He’s just a good guy to have around the place too and that’s something to take into consideration and hopefully some of the other lads go too. At least four have a chance to go, which would be nice.”