With the opening fixture of our league campaign almost here, the match against Wolves at the Aviva stadium served as a good exercise in building momentum towards our challenge of retaining the Scottish title. There was more than enough action in defence and in attack for us to over analyse, yeah we could be more clinical with the opportunities we carve out, or more switched on in defence, but the match in Dublin has to be seen as more minutes in the players legs and a day out for Celtic fans.
Before Brendan Rodgers and the squad turn their full attention to competitive football, Celtic have one more match to negotiate before the championship flag is unfurled against Ross County.
Athletic Club Bilbao will make the journey from the Basque Country to Glasgow’s east end to formally close our pre-season activities as well as help our long serving winger James Forrest celebrate his testimonial.
It is fitting that the club who established “The One Club Award”, which recognises loyalty, commitment, responsibility, sportsmanship and respect. All values the Basque giants hold dear, were chosen for this occasion.
Athletic themselves celebrated our greatest ever captain back in 2019 when Billy McNeill was added to their list of One Club Award winners at a ceremony held at half-time in front of a sell out San Mamés stadium.
For this gesture alone the team and fans making the journey to Glasgow are sure to receive a warm welcome on Tuesday night from the Celtic support.
Since making his debut for the first team on the 1st May 2010, James Forrest has become one of the most decorated players in our clubs history. With over 460 appearances, over 100 goals and many, many more assists, Forrest has embraced the challenge of what is expected as a winger in the green & white hoops.
Signed from our youth team in 2009, Forrest is another fine example of our player development from young talent, to first team and international recognition.
Forrest’s greatest run of form coincided with Celtics stranglehold of Scottish football between 2016-17 and 2019-20, when we secured an unprecedented Quadruple Treble.
James was pivotal in the explosive forward play under the direction of Brendan Rodgers and then from 2019 with the transition to Neil Lennon.
In an excerpt used from the official Celtic Treble Treble book, I wrote;
An Academy Graduate comes of age.
When Celtic made the trip to Perth to play St Johnstone in October 2018, the team & one player in particular put on a show for the faithful followers in the stands.
An incredible performance had Celtic 5 goals ahead before half time. Odsonne Edouard, & Callum McGregor both hit the net as we ran out 6-0 winners, but it was Academy Graduate James Forrest who stole the show, with 4 goals in a devastating 30 minute spell in the first half.
James Forrest’s performance that day & his ability to be in the right place, at the right time, in big matches throughout the season, helped him secure Player of the year awards from fellow players & writers. A magnificent way to celebrate the continued youth development from the Celtic academy during our Treble Treble victory.
Whether it was that performance, his last Minute winner against Shakhtar Karagandy, the countless important goals at Hampden or his strike in the 5-0 drubbing of our city rivals to clinch the title, Forrest has been a mainstay of a dominant Celtic team, building for further success.
The match will be a great opportunity to welcome back our champions, but it will also be special to celebrate a man who has helped deliver so much success at Celtic Park.
Martin Donaldson is a Glasgow East End Bhoy, He made my first trip to Celtic Park in 1983 for a 0-0 draw with Brechin City & thankfully that never put him off going back. He now sits perched high in section 409 of the North Stand with his 2 kids making memories along the Celtic Way.
He loves picking out those matches from yester-year to find out much more about the legendary names & faces that have graced the Celtic Jersey over the years. He is a keen fundraiser for The Celtic Foundation & The British Heart Foundation as they both strive to make a difference and to change peoples lives all over the world.