JAMES FORREST has defended his former Celtic teammate Kieran Tierney, saying that the full-back loves playing for Scotland.

Tierney is just one of several English Premier League stars who have pulled out of the national team’s double-header against Cyprus and Kazakhstan, with Arsenal requesting he be given leave as he continues to manage a long-term pelvic issue.

With captain Andy Robertson, Manchester United’s Scott McTominay and Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser also withdrawing from duty, Steve Clarke has been left unable to field many of his top players in the last fixtures before March’s Euro 2020 play-off fixtures.

Forrest though says that Tierney will be desperate to be involved when those games roll around, and that his commitment to his country cannot be questioned.

“He is certainly committed to Scotland,” Forrest said. “He played for Scotland at an early age and he has captained Scotland as well.

“KT loves playing for his country but he was out for a while and is just getting back in the fold at Arsenal. I think Scotland and Arsenal will both want what is best for KT.

“The main thing for him is just to keep doing what he’s doing at Arsenal and be ready for the games in March.”

Forrest though does admit he holds sympathy for manager Clarke as he tries his best to cobble together a team and a plan that might just eventually take Scotland to a major tournament after two decades of misery.

“That is the same for every national team,” he said.

“Maybe he will have an idea of what team he wants to pick, but every camp since he’s been here there has been call-offs.

“But we still have a lot of good players who are doing well anyway, and it is a chance for other boys to come in and try to stay in the squad for the games in March.

“I think it’s good for the manager to get another couple of games in with us. It will let him have a look at different players for the vital games in March and, hopefully, we can put in a couple of good, positive performances so that we can go into the play-offs with confidence.

“That would be massive for us because we did have some bad results – and a few poor displays – before we beat San Marino. Obviously, we can no longer qualify for the finals through the group.

“We had a hard time in Kazakhstan and the game against Cyprus at Hampden was tight, but we need two decent showings here.”

Forrest believes that those who have pulled out of the squad are genuinely injured, but if anyone could make a case for taking a breather in what are meaningless games - in theory, if not in practical terms as Scotland look towards March - it is Forrest.

The Celtic winger has started the season in sensational form with 11 goals to his name, but he has already played 27 matches for club and country along the way. The thought of asking for a bit of respite never crossed his mind though.

“No, I always want to play for my country,” he said. “I always look forward to playing for the national team and coming up against good players. It’s no hassle to come away.”

Forrest is hoping that the nation can benefit not only from the momentum that is carrying him at the moment, but from the good feeling around Scottish football as a whole that has been built upon inspired showings by Celtic and Rangers in the Europa League.

“We beat Lazio at home and then we went over there and beat them again,” he said. “Teams like this away are always difficult because you are up against top players. But, when you put in a performance, you are hopeful that will help with Scotland as well.

“We went behind in both games against Lazio so that just shows the character. We didn’t crumble against a top side and managed to score two late goals to win both games.

“The priority now is the national team. Scottish football is in a really good place and it has been really positive from Celtic and Rangers over the past couple of weeks.

“That is good to see but we want to make sure it is the same story with Scotland.

“The last couple of trips have not been great but hopefully we can turn it around.”