Former Scotland manager Alex McLeish believes that losing James Forrest is a “massive” blow for Celtic and manager Neil Lennon.
The 29-year-old is unlikely to return to first-team duties until February, with the Irish tactician confirming that he has undergone surgery on his ankle injury at the start of last month (cited by Glasgow Times).
During the 2020/21 campaign, Forrest has scored twice and provided one assist from five starts and two outings from the bench, averaging a match rating of 7.14, having 2.4 shots per game and accumulating a pass success rate of 89.3% (Whoscored). Lennon is a huge fan of Forrest and described him as “priceless” last season (cited by The Times).
Speaking to Football Insider, McLeish compared Celtic’s pain of losing Forrest to Tottenham’s anguish with their star man Gareth Bale.
“Massive loss, a massive loss,” he said.
“We’ve said before about Gareth Bale leaving Tottenham and Tottenham are like: ‘We’ve got £80million to spend, we’ll splurge on six, seven players,’ and you think six or seven can outdo what one player does and that didn’t happen with Spurs.
“It took a long time for a lot of those players to develop and some of them never worked. That’s kind of an example of what I’m saying about special players and, you know, James Forrest has been a special player for Celtic and, not only that, he was a special player for me and for Scotland.
“To lose a key player in your team can cause a disruption to the whole team. I’m not saying that’s the reason for Celtic’s difficult start but Forrest is a player who makes that team tick, even if he’s not in form, it’s just that he puts the fear of death into a defender.
“Even if he’s not at his best and a defender maybe marks him out the game, other players flourish and that’s the things that you don’t really see when you’re involved in the professional side of the game.”
Transfer Tavern Verdict
While it could have played a role in Celtic’s demise in the league this season, there are bigger issues in the squad rather than just one player’s absence, most notably in defence.
That being said, Forrest’s statistics alone show that his attacking prowess has been greatly missed.
Time will tell whether Lennon plans to bring in any backup players once the transfer window opens. But whatever happens, the boss will need to bridge the gap to ease the pressure on his shoulders.
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