JAMES FORREST is one of the most talented players to have emerged from this country in the past five years.
He may also be the unluckiest. The sight of the winger haring down the pitch in the final minute of Celtic's match against Dundee United on Saturday would have thrilled a home support already giddy at having seen their team score five times. They would add a sixth at the end of that move but the goal would come at a cost as Forrest pulled up, clutching the back of his leg. He was the only disconsolate figure in green and white come full-time as he hirpled up the tunnel knowing another period on the sidelines awaits him.
Forrest is now 23 years old, no longer just a talented prospect. These should be among the peak years of his career, the winger playing every week for Celtic and Scotland. The fact, then, that he has only nine international caps to his name after making his debut three years ago, didn't play last season after March 1 and was absent for five of Celtic's Champions League group matches over the past two campaigns tells its own sad story.
Forrest's medical history could fill a journal. This latest setback appears to be a hamstring injury. He has also had persistent groin, hip and pelvic problems. There have been issues with his thigh, his calf, and sciatica. It has baffled and frustrated the Celtic medical staff.
They have tried various things to try to keep him fit. He changed his car to see if that would help, and cut out the long drive to and from his Ayrshire home every day. He visited a neurologist. Nothing so far seems to have provided the cure.
This latest setback will likely keep him out of Wednesday night's Champions League play-off tie against Maribor. Forrest, memorably, scored the goal against Shakhter Karagandy at the same stage last season that carried Celtic into the group stage. On his day he can be a thrilling player to watch but it is that explosive style, the sudden acceleration and movement, that seems also to be his constant undoing.
The baton has now been passed to Ronny Deila to see if he can find a way of keeping Forrest away from the physiotherapist's room. The Norwegian has demonstrated that he plans on looking at everything behind the scenes at Celtic in the closest detail, and has already made changes to the players' eating and dietary habits. This fresh pair of eyes may alight on something that Forrest is doing that could make all the difference, even if it means completely dissecting the player's running style, posture or biomechanics and gradually implementing a new way.
Forrest has the talent to play in the Barclays Premier League and to amass 50 Scotland caps. The lingering threat of injury, however, is bad not just for his health but for his reputation, too. Clubs may think twice about shelling out a significant sum for a player who cannot stay fit.
For now, it is Deila's problem and he is intent on figuring it out. "It's very important we take our time and get out his potential," he said in the summer. "If it continues the way of the last year or two, that will never happen because of all the injuries."
It shouldn't just be Celtic fans with cause to lament should that worst case scenario come to pass.
And another thing...
Derk Boerrigter has endured enough of an inauspicious opening to his Celtic career without being labelled a diver as well. The winger has until 3pm today to respond to the Scottish Football Association's notice of complaint or accept a two-game ban for going down too easily in last week's win over St Johnstone.
Attackers sometimes feel they have to go to ground if they are being impeded in the penalty box and referees either can't see the incident or feel it doesn't merita penalty. Falling down is often just the most obvious way of highlighting a foul.
With television cameras catching everything these days, however, anyone diving should know they will likely not get away with it. Should Boerrigter pick up a ban, hopefully his subsequent shame will discourage others.
Tommy Craig might not have appreciated being asked about the suspended Jim Goodwin prior to St Mirren's game against Hamilton Academical last midweek but there were better ways to handle it than storming out of a live radio interview.
Dealing with the demands of the media must be a pain for the modern manager but it has become an integral part of the job.
St Mirren have endured a difficult enough start to the season without their manager providing critics with extra ammunition.