Celtic’s search for a new manager has gathered frantic pace in the last few days, with Eddie Howe looking like the man to enter the Bhoys dugout.
That being said, when the Hoops face Falkirk in the Scottish Cup on Saturday, they will do so with John Kennedy in charge again.
It will be interesting to see how Celtic and Kennedy approach the cup. They are yet to win any silverware this season and this remains their sole chance of scooping a major honour. Therefore, you’d imaging they plan on taking it pretty seriously.
That being said, when they face third-tier Falkirk today, they can probably afford to make a few changes here and there.
With that in mind, this feels like the perfect time to finally unleash James Forrest.
The winger had been missing since September due to a lengthy ankle injury until he came off the bench against Dundee United last month. He has played just 23 minutes under Kennedy, though, struggling to make a proper breakthrough with the interim coach in charge.
Of course, it’s been useful to hand drips and drabs to Forrest as he returns to the fold, but with this game being a simpler challenge on paper, it’s an ideal time to hand him his first start since returning from his layoff.
If Forrest does come back into the side this weekend, it’s likely to be Ryan Christie who will miss out. David Turnbull is too impressive to drop, while Mo Elyounoussi returned to form with a vibrant goalscoring performance against Rangers in the Old Firm a fortnight ago.
Christie has been particularly abject this term. He set up a goal for Scotland on international duty last week but, in recent months, he’s had had a tough time for the Hoops. He has scored just twice in his last 26 outings and he only has one goal to his name in the whole of 2021 so far.
With that in mind, the return of Forrest feels timely. He scored 16 times last season while registering 22 assists. To lose a player like that for such a large period of time, therefore, has been nothing short of disastrous for Celtic.
In 2019/20, only Christie completed more dribbles per game than Forrest in continental competition, so clearly he has been a huge absentee.
The Scotland international is nothing short of a cult hero at Parkhead. He has played 407 times for the Hoops, putting in some majestic performances along the way, and you only need to look at appraisals throughout the years to understand the extra dimension he can give Celtic on Saturday.
Speaking in April 2019, former Bhoys manager Neil Lennon commented: “He’s a beautifully balanced footballer”, adding : “He’s having a great three or four years, but the potential was always there when he was a kid. He’s one of the best players in Britain now.”
Thus, it’s unfortunate that Forrest has had to miss such a large part of the 2020/21 campaign. He could have been the difference maker in Celtic’s pursuit of ten titles in a row.
After easing the £15k-per-week earner back gently last month, Kennedy must now finally unleash him in the starting XI.