James Forrest celebrates his 33rd birthday today. He's scored over 100 goals for Celtic, and has clocked over 100 assists along the way. Now on the cusp of his 16th senior-side season at Paradise, he aims to increase his tally of 24 winner's medals – a feat which, should he manage to add another two between now and whenever he plans to retire, will see him surpass fellow Prestwick great Bobbie Lennox as the most decorated Celtic player of all time.

Forrest's career has been defined by numbers. This is true of any professional footballer in the modern era, but as a player so keenly and meticulously focused on improving his own stats and figures – be that goals, assists, or, as we saw last season, impactful minutes spent on the pitch – it applies to the explosive winger more than most. And all numerical milestones begin with a first.

Forrest made his first Celtic appearance as a second-half substitute against Motherwell at Celtic Park on May 1, 2010. He scored his first Celtic goal shortly after swapping places with Aiden McGeady that afternoon, and received his first Scotland cap under Craig Levein the following year. He made his first ever Glasgow derby outing at Ibrox on January 2, 2011 – aka 'Samaras Sunday' – and yet, rather astonishingly, did not score his first goal against Rangers until April 29, 2018.

Shortly after doing that, Mikael Lustig celebrated by wearing a police hat.

The celebrations that day were widespread and monumental. Not only did Celtic sweep aside their city rivals 5-0 on a gloriously sunny afternoon at Paradise, but the emphatic win saw them clinch the league title – the club's seventh successive championship at the time, and Brendan Rodgers' second during his first stint as Celtic manager.

"I remember Dedryck Boyata making a good tackle in the middle of the pitch, I collected the loose ball, took a good touch and started driving down the right," Forrest told me when he and I wrote his official Celtic biography, Homegrown Hero, back in 2019. 

"I can remember the first players closing me down, and my instinct was to keep moving forward, keep the ball rolling, keep pushing inside towards goal. I tried to keep positive in my plan and in my mind, but, when you receive the ball so far up the pitch, you never once think you’re going to score from that wide starting position.

"In the moment, it all happened so quickly. I was able to cut inside a few times and eventually get my shot away."

With 54 career goals to his name at that point, Forrest's first derby goal – which saw him charge down the inside-right channel, drifting past oncoming players such as Andy Halliday and Jason Cummings, before battering the ball across stand-in goalkeeper Jak Alnwick and into the corner of the net – marked Celtic's third of the afternoon.

Odsonne Edouard, then on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, had netted twice inside the first half before then, with Forrest's strike coming just before half-time. Callum McGregor and Tom Rogic would round off the five-goal thriller that day – and yet, somehow, it was Lustig that stole all the headlines after doing this:

"I think Mika was trying to steal my thunder with that celebration!" Forrest added. "Instead of people remembering my first Glasgow derby goal, it’s him wearing a police hat that sticks out in their heads.

"That’s a Celtic pub quiz question a few years from now, isn’t it? Who scored the goal that led Mikael Lustig to celebrate by wearing a police hat? I didn’t even know he’d done it at the time either, but we had a laugh about it afterwards when we saw the footage back. Joking aside, I honestly thought it was hilarious! Mika, as a player and as a person, is incredible too. Everyone inside and outside the club knows he’s a massive character, and I worked with him for the full seven-and-a-half years he was here at Celtic.

"I had a great relationship with him then and I’ve got a great relationship with him now. He clearly enjoyed himself after my goal that day, and I’m delighted he was a part of it as well."

Read more:

Lustig, again speaking to me in James' biography Homegrown Hero, heaped praise on his former colleague while admitting a dash of embarrassment. "To be honest, I feel a little bit bad about it," said Lustig. "But in my defence, the whole thing was just something that happened in the moment, and I think it's nice that we'll always have that memory now.

"Let me also say this – I think it speaks volumes for him and the quality of his goal that it made me act in this way. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it! Joking aside, James was one of my closest friends during my time in Glasgow. He still is from afar, so to see him score that goal in that moment made me behave a little crazier than I might normally have."

Lustig was always a player who thrived under pressure during the Glasgow derby, but admitted that this particular game lives long in the memory as one of his favourites. He added: "Overall, that was one of the best games I ever played in as a Celtic player. To win the league at home against your rivals is amazing. The goal Jamesy scored was sublime too, and it was a proper, archetypal James Forrest goal.

"He took the ball from a wide area, brought so much pace, he was direct, he dribbled through defenders, and he made it look so easy. Anyone, whether you play football or not, knows that isn't easy at all."

Fast forward five years since these conversations with both James and Mikael, and I think that's something worth underlining about Forrest: he makes so much of what he does look easy. He's spent his career doing this, most recently when he re-entered the manager's starting line-up at the back-end of last season. He's reliable and consistent, and, all going to plan, could finish next season as the club's most decorated player, ever.

Time will tell how much he's involved over the course of the 2024/25 campaign, but what is clear is Forrest's penchant for seizing opportunity whenever it presents itself. If that takes the form of another Glasgow derby goal I'm sure he'll pounce on it.

I hope he does. And I bet Officer Lustig does from afar too.