THE battle between Callum McGregor and James Forrest for the player of the year award may just have been settled in the latter’s favour – according to McGregor himself.

The midfielder believes that Forrest’s spectacular strike which opened the scoring in yesterday’s Scottish Cup semi-final canter over Aberdeen may just have tipped the scales towards the winger, but he is far from bitter.

In fact, McGregor will be delighted for his teammate should he pip him to the post in the individual award, especially if Celtic sweep the board once again when the collective prizes are handed out at the end of the season.

HeraldScotland: James Forrest wheels away in delight as Kristoffer Ajer prepares to go and greet the Celtic scorerJames Forrest wheels away in delight as Kristoffer Ajer prepares to go and greet the Celtic scorer

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“I think he’s just won it with that wonder goal,” McGregor said. “I’m claiming the assist on it.

“But listen, James has been outstanding again, and he has been playing at a real top level for the last two or three years, internationally too.

“Again today, another semi-final, he turns up with a big performance and a big goal for us to help us settle into the game.

“If I win it or Jamesy wins it we’ll be delighted, but if he wins it then he’s been outstanding, and he thoroughly deserves it. This group are so humble, and whoever wins it we will be delighted.

“That’s the thing with this group of players, it’s not about winning individual awards for us, it’s about winning trophies, satisfying the fans and satisfying ourselves.

“We work so hard. When it comes to pre-season we think we have to do it all again, and we manage to do it again somehow.

“We have a selfless group of players who are willing to work hard for each other.”

Forrest’s crucial strike to break Aberdeen’s resistance in first-half stoppage time was just the latest high-profile goal from a player who seems to have ice in his veins when opportunities present themselves on the big occasion.

“The top players have got that calmness in those big moments when everything is frantic all round about them,” said McGregor.

HeraldScotland: Callum McGregor tries to fend off Lewis FergusonCallum McGregor tries to fend off Lewis Ferguson

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“They just concentrate on making the finish or the pass. He’s been outstanding, and you can see that from the number of goals and assists he has got again.”

As humble as McGregor is about his own contribution to Celtic’s cause over this unprecedented period of domestic success for the club, he does concede it is a real feather in the cap of the academy system in place at Celtic to have two of their own products battling it out to be named the best player in the country over the past season.

“Young players at Celtic, when they break in there is so much asked of them,” he said.

“You’ve pretty much got to be the complete player by the time you get through and there is so much pressure on you to deliver in finals and semi-finals.

“You have to have that mentality, and to have two of the academy boys coming through and fighting for player of the year, it’s great for the club and the young players that are aspiring to get into the first-team. There’s a pathway for them.”

Forrest himself was delighted not only with how aesthetically pleasing his goal was on the day, but how crucial it was in the context of the match.

HeraldScotland: James Forrest looks mystified as Craig Thomson shows him the yellow card for simulationJames Forrest looks mystified as Craig Thomson shows him the yellow card for simulation

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“It opened up well for me and I struck it well,” Forrest said. “I was buzzing to see it hit the back of the net.

“I think the first goal was always going to be important and we grew in confidence from then on in.

“Compared to how we played against Rangers with ten men a couple of weeks ago we dominated the game and we created more chances. We scored three goals, but we could have scored a few more.

“At the start of the day we wanted to make sure we were in the final. Getting three goals and playing really well, we are obviously buzzing.

“We will look forward to the final.”