BRENDAN RODGERS insists evergreen winger James Forrest still has a crucial role to play for Celtic.
The Scotland international, who celebrated his 32nd birthday during the week as CQN reported, was hindered by persistent injury during Ange Postecoglou’s debut campaign.
And Forrest was used sparingly last term as fitness problems curtailed his outings in the historic world record eighth treble campaign.
The one-club player still managed to become a Celtic Centurian when he walloped in a hat-trick in a 6-1 win over Hibs at Parkhead in October last year to take his goal tally to 100.
GOAL OF A START…James Forrest is all smiles after claiming the first strike of the 2-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle on August 7 2016, Brendan Rodgers’ debut league game. Skipper Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths prepare to join in the celebrations.
He missed the 2-1 League Cup Final victory over Michael Beale’s Ibrox side in February, but made a cameo appearance in the 3-1 Scottish Cup triumph over Inverness Caley Thistle last month.
Coincidentally, it was Forrest who struck the opening goal in Rodgers’ start to his original Celtic managerial career when he tucked away a close-range drive in the 2-1 success over Hearts at Tynecastle on August 7 2016.
Ironically, Rodgers’ first game at Parkhead in his second time-around stint as Hoops gaffer will be Forrest’s well-deserved testimonial match against La Liga cracks Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday August 1.
The Irishman is clearly looking forward to the occasion and said: “James has been an absolutely brilliant ambassador and player for the club.
SMILES BETTER…Brendan Rodgers gets off to a winning start in Edinburgh seven years ago.
“I think that sometimes when you come through the system you maybe don’t quite get the accolades of some others. But when you play the number of games he has for Celtic, win the trophies that he’s won and still be as humble as he is, that’s a great testament to James and the type of person he is.
“He was absolutely brilliant for me in my first time here, a very important member of the squad and he will be that again this time.”
Rodgers, speaking to Celtic TV, added: “So, I really hope for his testimonial game we get as many people there as we can, because you won’t see it too many times in the modern game – someone being at the club for so long.
“I think he’s worthy of getting that stadium full and, hopefully, we can do that and that will be a great thing from every Celtic supporter and fan to him.
“I think he’ll have a really good impact for us this season, as well, and also going forward.”