THE UNASSUMING James Forrest will collect his 20th senior medal for Celtic on Saturday afternoon.

To date he has claimed 96 goals for the Parkhead side and is one of only 10 players in the near-50 years of the Premier League era to score in 13 consecutive campaigns.

Forrest became only the second Scottish-based player to break the 100-mark for European outings last summer, following in the footsteps of his former skipper Scott Brown.

He could yet eclipse Bobby Lennox’s haul of 25 medals to become the most decorated Celtic player of all time. He is now just three away from levelling up with Billy McNeill’s 23. And yet in some quarters his numbers don’t stack up.

As the ink was drying on the new three-year contract that he signed on Thursday night, there were a few grumbles among a support who have not always fully appreciated just what the contribution has been from the winger.

In many senses, however, Forrest is the identikit for an Ange Postecoglou player. The relentlessness of his career may have been reflected in the staccato nature of appearances across the last 18 months after repeated exposure to 55+ games a season caught up with him. But in terms of attitude and endeavour, Forrest’s willingness to get the head down and quietly do what it takes to make the team tick is an admirable trait.

Jota, Liel Abada and Daizen Maeda have largely held down the wide places for Celtic this term. It remains to be seen what the future holds for Jota but with or without him next season it would have been remiss for Celtic to allow Forrest to head out of the exit door.

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Ever since a troublesome ankle injury disrupted his season during Neil Lennon’s tenure, Forrest has struggled for a regular run of sustained fitness. There have been niggles when he has come back into he team that have prevented him from clocking up a head of steam but it is easy to overlook his ability to conjure something from nothing, particularly on the big occasion; it was Forrest, after all, who ensured Celtic’s progression into the League Cup final after a stodgy semi-final against St Johnstone.

This summer offers scope for a proper break for all players after the demands of the season. Without the early European qualifiers there is an extension of the summer which ought to allow the opportunity for a mental and physical switch off before the resumption of competitive football.

If Forrest returns for pre-season in the same condition as the rest of the squad and ready to kick on, there is no reason why he cannot have something to offer Celtic over the course of the campaign.

Next season will require a decent pool to fight on a duel front. With the calendar condensed because of the winter World Cup, it will be a relentless schedule almost from the off with three games a week the norm from September through until the end of November.

A fit and available Forrest adds something to the depth within Postecoglou’s squad while his experience can also be valuable when it comes to competing on a European front.

One of only a handful of players within the current squad who has Champions League experience, the 30-year-old still has ample life in his legs yet.

The interesting question is whether he is the first of the summer signings to put pen to paper.

Postecoglou joked in the aftermath of the title win that he wanted to enjoy it for five minutes before thinking of daily pressures by the reality of Celtic is that it really does not stop. It will be interesting to see what other names now commit to the club for the long term.