JAMES FORREST is a player who, it would be fair to say, has sometimes split opinion among the Celtic fanbase during his long career at the club. For a winger, it comes with the territory.

He has managed to confound those critics down the years by not only maintaining his place at Celtic through his ability and dedication, but by making telling contributions to one of the most successful periods in the club’s history.

Forrest turned 31 last week at Celtic’s training camp in Austria as he prepares for yet another season at the top level, fresh from agreeing a new deal earlier in the summer that will keep him at the club until the summer of 2026.

But simply being at the club for the rest of his career isn’t enough for Forrest, who is determined to show that he still has what it takes to be a main player for Ange Postecoglou after injury curtailed his time on the park over the past two seasons.

“I was delighted to sign my deal, and I think it was good for me and the club, but I don’t want to just say that I’ll stay here for the sake of staying here,” Forrest said.

“I want to win more things and play as much as I can, and if that means staying here for the rest of my career, then I’d be happy with that.

“The manager hasn’t said that [I need to prove myself], but I know myself. We even said as soon as we got here, for all of the boys that did so well last year, it starts afresh and everything kind of gets forgotten about.

“I think that’s the best way to look at it, you can’t look back on what you have done before, you need to keep going on and trying to improve. It doesn’t matter what age you are, that goes for everyone.

“It’s just the same as every year, I’ve had a lot of good seasons before and you just have to try to come back stronger after having injuries and I’ve been doing that.

“I’ve started well this pre-season and I want to continue to do that, and hopefully I’ll take that into the season as well.

“You speak to older boys and that and I turned 31 on Thursday, but I love being here and I wouldn’t want to be here if I just wanted to plod along.

“I want to keep trying to help the team, keep trying to win stuff and play as much as I can.

“I’m looking forward to the season just as I did with last season as well.”

This is the thirteenth pre-season that Forrest has gone through with Celtic, but he thinks that his extended respite he had this summer may help him to come back stronger this time around.

“You get tired just thinking about that!” he said.

“That’s why it’s good that I wasn’t away with the international team this year, so it was maybe a good chance to get a bit of recovery in, because it’s something I’ve not really had.

“As I said, I’m looking forward to the season, so I’ll try to get a good pre-season and try to get as many games as I can.”

Given the strength in depth at manager Postecoglou’s disposal in attacking areas, that may be easier said than done. But just as he has done throughout his career, Forrest sees the calibre of player around him as good for the collective, rather than a threat to his own place in the squad.

Though, he is a firm believer that the presence of so many good players vying for places is a catalyst for the raising of standards, and in turn, success.

“I remember over different spells throughout my Celtic career, every spell when we’ve done really well, the squad has been really good and really strong,” he said.

“You look at the amount of international boys and the young boys coming through as well, we’ve got a big squad over here and the standard is really good in training. That’s good for the players and its obviously good for the manager as well.

“No matter what age you are, all the players want to play. I think it’s good when the players in your position are good and doing well, because it makes you want to keep impressing to get a game.

“I think it’s really good, that’s what you want.”

In Forrest’s mind and across the Celtic camp as a whole, there is a realisation that their own level will have to go up a notch in the coming season if they want to achieve their goals, with the club cognisant of the prospect of a wounded Rangers coming back at them after their title triumph.

“It was the same when they won the league the year before,” he said.

“We had a big turnaround in players with the amount that left and then new players coming in.

“I think over the last two seasons Celtic and Rangers have been really close, so I think this year it’s going to be the same. We’re going to have to kick on and do more than we did last year.

“You’ve got to go into the season that way. You can’t really focus on anyone else, you just have to keep improving yourself.”