Rodgers: 'Phenomenal' Forrest has big part to play in title run-in 

The 32-year-old is hoping to add to the 22 trophies he has won during his time at Celtic.

Brendan Rodgers says James Forrest will have a big impact to make in the remaining weeks of the season as they continue their quest for a league and cup double.

The Celtic manager waxed lyrical about the 32-year-old winger, who has had a trophy-laden career at the Hoops, ahead of their trip to Dundee on Sunday.

In his 14 years at the club Forrest has won 11 league titles, six Scottish Cups and five league cups as well as recording 106 goals and 102 assists in 490 first team appearances.

His goal against Aberdeen last weekend helped Celtic reach another Scottish Cup final, as he continues to close in on Bobby Lennox’s 25 trophies.

The Scottish champions currently sit three points ahead of Rangers at the top of the league with five games remaining and Rodgers insists having a “certified winner” who has been over the course time and time again will be vital for his side.

“He’s very important, he is a certified winner, he knows what it takes and having someone of his stature and ability around the team is very important at this stage.

“You’ve seen it in a number of cameos that he has produced recently, he hasn’t had as much game time in parts of this season that he would maybe felt he deserved.

“But the longer the season goes on you have seen his qualities and what he brings to the team. His mindset and what he brings to the pitch, a calmness as well as quality, will be really important for us.

“He is a remarkable professional, from the first time I met him away back in 2016, there has been some noises about about him moving on, but I have never felt that at all. His professionalism, his focus is absolutely phenomonal.

“How he looks after his body and how he prepares himself has never wavered and at times this season he has probably felt he should have played more, and maybe I should have played him more but I was never going to rule him out because I know what he gave me my first time here and in spells this time when he has played he has been absolutely brilliant.

“He will be instrumental for us on and off the pitch in these closing weeks.

“Some people were surprised a couple of weeks back when I said he was still the best winger at the club, but I think they can see now what I was meaning, for how he looks after the ball, his game understanding, he is one of the best wingers I have ever worked with at receiving the ball so close to the line under pressure, he very rarely loses it, he can create goals, he can score goals.

“The challenge now for any player as they grow older is the intensity in how the game is played but that doesn’t take away the contribution that he can have.”

Celtic go into this weekend three points ahead at the top of the Premiership with five games, including the final Old Firm game of the league season, remaining.

If they win their next three games, against Dundee, Hearts and Rangers, then they will go into the last two games six points ahead and realistically be champions for the third year in a row.

But any slipup at this stage could let Philippe Clement’s side back in contention ahead of the final run-in.

Rodgers said: “This is the period when you have to get your trophy head on and focus on what it takes to become champions and the players here are well versed in that, they understand the mindset and they understand the psychological traits needed at this stage.

“This is the part of the season where this squad have been very good and this club have been exceptional but you have to do it again and our focus will be on one game at the time starting with Dundee.”

The Celtic boss also had good news regarding Daizen Maeda who has recovered from injury quicker than expected and could return to play his part in the run-in.

The Japan international has not played since the 3-3 draw with Rangers on April 7 after suffering a hamstring tendon injury and looked set to miss the rest of the season.

But he was back running and kicking a ball with the medical staff at Celtic’s Lennoxtown training centre on Friday and manager Brendan Rodgers could have him back after Sunday’s cinch Premiership clash at Dundee.

The Celtic manager said: “I mentioned before that the information we were given was that he was probably going to be out for the remainder of the season. But he has responded so well.

“He has gone away and had further scans, and he is out on the pitch and you would think he has never been away.

“I don’t think he will be fit for this weekend but he will finish off his rehab beginning of this week and fingers crossed he will play some part between now and the end of the season, which is fantastic news for us because he has been consistently really, really good for us this season. To have him back and his intensity will be a fantastic boost for us.

“I was speaking to Tim (Williamson), the head of our medical team, earlier and he said in his time here that he never fails to amaze him in terms of his recovery and just his overall physicality.

“He is getting nothing from the tendon issue that he felt after the game, which is great news.

“There are still a few more steps to go through but that will be great news for us. Having him back would create a really strong squad for us.”

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