JAMES Forrest insists that Celtic will be on a revenge mission when they take the field against Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday. The newly-crowned PFA Scotland player of the year admitted last night that Celtic were so stung by the 1-0 defeat and poor display they produced at that venue on December 29 that it hung over them for the duration of their January training camp in Dubai.

Having already celebrated their eighth consecutive title and Rangers secure in second place, nothing other than bragging rights ostensibly hang on the final Old Firm match of the season but Forrest insists that thoughts of that match won’t be far away. “Going into the winter break, when we went to Dubai, it wasn’t the same because we left after what was such a bad result, but more importantly such a poor performance,” he said. “I think what made us play so well when we came back was the fact that everyone was still really hurting from that game. I am sure when it comes to Ibrox the boys will no doubt be thinking about the last time we went there.”


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There were some mitigating factors behind the display, with Odsonne Edouard not fit enough to start, and Callum McGregor press ganged into action at left back, but Forrest is determined there won’t be a repeat performance. “As the manager at the time said, for the boys who hadn’t played in the team before then, playing in a match like that would give them experience,” he said. “And even the fact that it didn’t go the way we had hoped will help them as well. But the boys were hurting for a good few weeks and longer from that game. Whoever is in the squad – whoever plays that game – will want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We need to make sure we finish the league strong, not let it peter out. We want to give ourselves confidence for starting the season again by finishing strong this time.”

Forrest was crowned Scotland’s top player by his peers, almost nine years to the day that he scored on his debut in a 4-0 win against Motherwell. The very next day, he was back in cleaning the boots of the players he had played alongside.

“I remember the next day, before we started training, I was off cleaning boots – the boots of players I’d played with the day before. That was good, a part of how things were done. With someone like John Clark and the other kit men at the club, they made sure the young boys stayed grounded.

“Back then, there was a rota, so every couple of days two players out of the team would have to clean every pair of boots. Nowadays a youth team player cleans two or three pairs.

“Who were my idols back then? I really looked up to guys who played in my position, so [Aiden] McGeady and Shaun Maloney. Training with them, seeing them playing my position, it was great. And anyone, no matter what position they played, would say Broony was an inspiration, the character he was.


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“Robbie Keane was playing that day I made my debut, too. It was great training with him, obviously.”

A season such as the one Forrest has just had is sure to put him in demand, while a club like his old gaffer’s Leicester City could probably do with his pace and decision-making out wide. But Forrest insists he has never seriously thought about leaving,

and isn’t about to now.

“Have I ever been tempted to leave?” he said. “No. I think a couple of years ago I had six months left on my contract – that was the closest I came.

“There was uncertainty but I always wanted to stay. Because I’ve come through the club, I understand the pressure, love the big games, I always wanted that. I just want to stay as long as I can.”

Forrest, along with Scott Brown and Mikael Lustig, contributed to all

of the club’s run of eight top-flight titles, insists he appreciates winning things more now. “I couldn’t have imagined it. You

don’t really think about it as the time goes on.

“Once I stop playing, I’ll look back on how many trophies I’ve won. The last couple of years, I have definitely begun to appreciate it more.”