James Forrest surprised us all at the weekend. Everyone, it seems, but Ange.
He selected him yesterday knowing that Forrest hadn’t played particularly well in weeks.
He selected him knowing that a lot of Celtic fans had serious doubts that he could still perform for this team.
He selected him because he still believes.
And Forrest repaid that belief.
I am not one of the perennial Forrest critics. But even I thought that this team shape, and this style, had left him behind.
I thought that it was too far advanced for him, that the contrast between him and Abada was too great. I thought this evolution had taken this club beyond a place where he still had something to offer it in the medium term.
But Forrest is used to this stuff by now, I think.
As a long-time whipping boy of the stands, even I have written him off at least once, back before Rodgers arrived when he seemed certain to leave on freedom of contract and I didn’t see that we were losing much.
In the year or so that followed though, he played the best football of his Celtic career. I couldn’t understand, at all, why there were so many people in the stands who thought he only got into the team because he was all we had wide right.
Yet his contribution to this club has been immense.
He is now on 96 goals for our club.
He has scored in all 13 seasons in which has played in the SPFL.
He is one of our most passionately loyal footballers, a one-club player at a time when that is the rarest thing in the game.
And Forrest has had offers, some public and some private.
He could have left years ago, to pursue mega-money down south and he would have gotten it. He can clearly operate at that level but he chose not to. He chose to stay at Celtic. He chose to give us the best years of his career.
This is a testing time for him. He has had to learn to adapt to Ange’s style of play, just as he had to adapt to the styles of other managers. He’s seen it all in his time at the club, and the only amazing thing about his performance yesterday is how few of us expected it when we really should know better. Forrest is always capable of that.
This guy rose, then fell. Then he rose and fell again.
He rose once more only to fall somewhat under Ange.
Is this the start of one final rise, where he gets to that 100 goals and then beyond? It could be. He will make the 100 goals come what may now; it’s whether or not he can make himself a first team starting eleven player again … and I guess we’ll see.
But Ange definitely believes in him. Ange definitely has faith.
He chose Forrest for one of our trickiest fixtures of the season, on that abysmal surface, with all that pressure on him … and the Famous Name delivered in fine style.
He’s now four goals from his rightful place in our history, and there are still eight league games to go in this campaign.
It is only a matter of time now.