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Forrest must be built up to fulfil fantastic potential

CELTIC as a club were reprieved in the Champions League.

James Forrest 'can be a top, top player,' says Ronny Deila. Picture: SNS
James Forrest 'can be a top, top player,' says Ronny Deila. Picture: SNS

James Forrest, though, has been sentenced to hard labour. The 23-year-old wide man has been blessed with talent but beset by injury.

Ronny Deila, the Celtic manager, has a plan to maximise the former by minimising the latter. The Scotland winger played for 66 minutes of the 3-0 win over St Johnstone on Wednesday night after returning from injury for the Champions League qualifier with Legia Warsaw.

His manager was heartened by a performance that included some exciting cameos but he has challenged his player to work his way to an elite level.

"With the individual quality he has, he can be a top, top player. He's not even near to being a top, top player right now because of his physical shape," said Deila.

He pointed out that European competition demanded that wide players work constantly, saying of such as Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben: "It's unbelievable the endurance they have. Unbelievable. Sprints all the time. You can't have five minutes off and then start to do something again.

"That's what you have to cope with. And if you're going to do that, you have to do it every match so you always develop. And you have to do it in training. And if you do that, the potential he has is fantastic."

The progress of Forrest has been hampered by injuries to his back, calf and hip. He was immediately called into the first team squad when Neil Lennon took over as manager in 2010 and has impressed at both club and international level. His injury record, though, has been a frustration for club and player and the winger is now embarking on a training programme to ensure he can have a sustained run in the team. "We have to build him up," said Deila of a player who has been forced to train cautiously because of his vulnerability to strains.

"It's better to train for half an hour with quality than two hours at 50% because that's not quality. I would rather say to him 'have 30 minutes on the pitch, run as much as you can and then go off' than say 'try to stay on for 90 minutes'."

Deila, too, might have a message for another Celtic wide man. Derk Boerrigter, the Dutch winger, won a penalty against St Johnstone, with Dave Mackay, the Saints captain, consequently being sent off.

However, St Johnstone felt there had been no contact between the two players and the club confirmed yesterday it will appeal against the decision by referee John Beaton.

"I want fair play but I have to see it before I can say anything," said Deila. "There will be decisions for and against Celtic and over 38 games the best team will win. But I don't like diving. I don't want to cheat."

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