Scottish Cup Final: Celtic winger Forrest doesn’t want to be left in the stands

JAMES FORREST hasn’t forgotten Celtic’s last cup final appearance when his club suit didn’t make it as far as a hanger in the dressing room at Hampden Park.

The Parkhead kid was left on the outside looking in after being told to take a seat in the stand for the League Cup Final defeat to Rangers in March.

Now as he prepares to try and end the season with a Scottish Cup Final success over Motherwell, the 19-year-old is desperate to avoid another National Stadium nightmare.

He said: “I was gutted to miss the League Cup Final as not being a part of that was the biggest low this season for me. Hopefully I can be a part of it on Saturday.

“I was on the bench in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Aberdeen and didn’t get on and I didn’t get on in the League Cup Final so hopefully I can this time.

“It would be incredible to win it and to get a medal in my first, full season. It definitely makes me more hungry. I really wanted to win the league but now that the cup is all that’s left we really need to win that. It means a lot to me.

“It’s all about Celtic winning the cup on Saturday and hopefully next season I can better myself. We’ve already reached a cup final and lost the league by one point but if we win the Scottish Cup that will all be forgotten about.”

Scotland boss Craig Levein delivered the perfect pre-match boost by handing Forrest his first Scotland call-up for next week’s Carling Nations Cup double header against Wales and the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.

But the teenager has put his Dark Blue ambitions on hold as he focuses on delivering a trophy he insists would be a tribute to Neil Lennon.

Forrest said: “It’s been a good season for me but obviously getting the Scotland call-up has me buzzing for it. That was really good but there’s nothing more important than us winning the cup. I need to still go out and get games for Celtic and continue to do my bit.

“We are 110 per cent behind the manager and we want him to be the the boss next season. Hopefully he can be appointed soon.

“All the boys want to win the cup for their own reasons but a lot of that will be about wanting to win the trophy for the gaffer as well.

“The boss gave me my debut at the end of last term and obviously kept faith in me by playing me this season so I’d have to say he has helped me most.

“When you see players arrive from other teams and not get a game then I can’t moan if I’m not playing.

“There are so many good players that it makes it difficult to play every week but as long as I keep getting games that’s the main thing.”

Forrest admits the experience of facing some of European football’s biggest names has been the major factor in allowing him to make an impact for the Hoops this season.

He said: “In pre-season we played Manchester United, Sporting Lisbon and Lyon and when you play the best teams and against the best players it makes it a lot easier.

“When you face the big teams then it’s easier to play against the lesser teams. I’ve played against Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, John O’Shea and facing players like that is obviously good for you.

“Playing against Champions League quality is what it’s all about and it gives you experience which is unbelievable.”

Forrest missed three months of the season with an ankle injury but the youngster is just glad he has been able to put the frustration behind him.

He said: “Halfway through the season I suffered a dodgy injury to my ankle which kept me out for three months. We didn’t really know what the problem was which was a concern. But since we got to the bottom of it I have been pretty much fit.

“I had scan and was told I would only be out for one week but it dragged on and on. A horrible injury.

“We didn’t have a clue how long I would be out. I was initially told it would be a week but every time I tried to jog on it, it became worse. But I’m back now and that’s the main thing.

“If it had dragged on for a few months after the initial three then I would have had an operation but fortunately it wasn’t needed.

“The manager kept asking each week when I was going to be back and if he’s asking that then you feel wanted but he’s like that with all the injured players.”

Forrest insists there’s little danger of his emergence into Celtic’s first team going to his head. He’s determined to follow the lead of Kris Commons by grabbing his fair share of goals next season.

He said: “I just continue as I have been. I’ve only been in the game for a year and haven’t done anything yet. I need to keep it going and hopefully do better.

“I can’t get carried away and the boys in the dressing room keep my feet on the ground for me.

“Next season I want to get better and avoid injury. I want to score more because I have too many shots and don’t score.

“It’s in my head that I don’t score enough goals. If you look at Kris Commons’ scoring record it’s unbelievable but I probably have more shots than him yet don’t score.

“He’s an experienced player and knows what he’s doing and when you see him in training he’s unbelievable.

“He could easily have been up for player of the season even though he only played half of it. But he will be a great player for us again next season and hopefully will be a top player on Saturday.”