James Forrest has Celtic value beyond minutes as Joe Ledley sees title advantage in gradual transformation

webnexttech | James Forrest has Celtic value beyond minutes as Joe Ledley sees title advantage in gradual transformation

Joe Ledley joined Celtic as James Forrest was starting out on his remarkable career of medal winning. Fast forward 14 years and the winger is still having an influence. And Ledley reckons his old team-mate and pal can again be a key contributor as the champions attempt to see off the challenge of Rangers and claim their latest crown. 32-year-old Forrest has been a peripheral figure through most of the campaign with Brendan Rodgers trying a variety of wide options. However, no one at the club has more experience of winning titles than Forrest and he gave notice of his current wellbeing with a stunning strike for a goal in Celtic’s last outing against St Johnstone 10 days ago. The attacker is now in line for another opportunity against Livingston on Sunday and Ledley says Forrest’s valuable nous will be key in the weeks ahead. The Welshman, who signed just a few weeks after Forrest made his top-team debut under the management of Neil Lennon against Motherwell in 2010, reckons there’s no substitute for know-how when it comes to the nitty-gritty stage of the term. With 23 winners’ medals on his CV including 11 titles, Rodgers, who was boss for two of those, knows he has a man who can star within his unit. Ledley said: “Obviously, Jamesy is very experienced now. It is definitely something that’s important and you only have to look back at what he has won for Celtic. It is remarkable. “It’s great to see him getting some more minutes on the pitch as well now because he has been unfortunate with injuries in his career and also through this season. To have someone like that with that vast experience of having been there and done around the training ground and bringing people on is massive at any time, but even more so this time of a season. “What you do off the pitch and away from a matchday can be just as valuable to a squad and to a manager. It is all about setting standards and making sure that everyone is up to speed. “Also making sure everyone around the group realises how much this title, and any title, means to the club. Seeing him come on the other day against St Johnstone and scoring is fantastic, but he can play a massive role off the park, too. “I know he has been limited with minutes at the moment with some of the other wingers doing so well. Daizen Maeda for example has been doing well and scored a hat-trick recently. “It is going to be difficult for him to get in there but once you get that chance, it is all about making an impact and Jamesy has shown for a long time he is capable of doing that. “What a fantastic career he has had at Celtic. I remember when I signed he was just coming through into the first team and I’m sure it was Lenny who gave him his debut. “You could see even way back then that he was going to be a special player. He had the pace and he had the balance and he just kept improving his game. “He just started to get more and more goals and assists and he has been unlucky in the last few years with injury. He has always produced for the club.” With eight games to go, every moment is going to be crucial in the flag fight as the Old Firm go head to head for the honour. With two league derbies in the season remaining, the outcome of the crunch clashes at Ibrox on Sunday week and Celtic Park after the split may be pivotal. Ledley, who will be back at his old club at the end of May to play in Celtic Legends versus Borussia Dortmund Legends charity match, knows what it takes to deliver in those matches having scored a winner for Lennon’s team as they defeated the Light Blues on their way to the title in 2011/12. However, although he is aware the head-to-heads are going to hold major significance, the former midfielder is wary about all emphasis going onto the double header. Both Celtic and Rangers have spilled points in other matches this term to reach this point and there could be twists and turns away from the derbies. Ledley said: “It is very tight and, of course, the games between the two teams look as if they are going to be deciding games that dictate who comes out on top. “But I have seen a few times this season that Celtic and Rangers have slipped up in games where you felt they would have won and they didn’t. So it is going to be tight. Getting that win against your rivals in the last two games in the league is vital. “But, as I said, we’ve seen it numerous times this season that there have been slips just when you do not expect it. So if Celtic get that win against Rangers, you can’t think that’s it and the game is over. It’s not. Far from it. “A draw somewhere and that is two points of the three points gained gone and it is all back on again. Goal difference is tight, points are tight, it is going to be one of the tightest finishes in a long time.”

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