Ange Postecoglou expects his patience with James Forrest to reap dividends after the winger came off the bench to take Celtic into the Premier Sports Cup final.
The Scotland international netted the only goal against St Johnstone from close range four minutes after coming on as a 69th-minute substitute.
Forrest missed the vast majority of last season with an ankle injury and Covid and fitness issues have hampered him this season.
But he has now come on in the past four games following six weeks out and Postecoglou expects the 30-year-old to be a major part of his squad.
“I have been patient with him to get his body right because I knew once he was fit, he is a quality player, an experienced player, a national team player,” the Celtic boss said. “And I know the way we play will suit him.
“It was great for him to come on, and it’s part of the reason we are kind of on a good run, because we have that ability now to bring people on from the bench that can still make a difference.”
Forrest set up a chance to claim his 20th major honour when Celtic return to Hampden on December 19.
“It’s unbelievable to play a part,” he said. “The team has been playing really well in the last couple of months and St Johnstone have done really well in cup competitions and made it really hard for us.
“It was obviously pleasing to add to what the boys started and come on and help the team.
“As long as the game was 0-0, both teams had put a lot into the game and you could see it was going a bit end to end when I came on.
“It’s obviously good for an attacker, that type of game, you will get chances and I am just glad I managed to take it. We had a couple more chances as well.
“I have been back training for last month or month and a half and I have come in the last few games as well. I am enjoying being back and being part of the team.
“Everyone in the changing room was really positive with the way they have been playing so to come into that has been really good. I just want to add to that as well.”
Celtic now move on to Thursday’s trip to Germany to face Bayer Leverkusen after two wins over Ferencvaros gave them six points from four matches.
“We have a big game Thursday, that’s our focus now,” Postecoglou said. We celebrated for 90 seconds and looked to the next game.
“It’s a massive game on Thursday night, another great test for us, another great challenge. We got ourselves back into contention in Europe and don’t want to let that slip. That’s another measure for this football club.”
St Johnstone had frustrated Celtic until Jota pounced on Zander Clark’s sliced clearance before driving to the bye-line and delivering a cross which ultimately fell for Forrrest.
Even then, there was a suspicion of handball about the way Jota brought down the clearance, and Saints boss Callum Davidson was proud of the way his players had defended one of the two trophies in their cabinet.
Davidson had lost forwards Stevie May and Glenn Middleton to injury in the build-up to the game and David Wotherspoon could be facing a lengthy spell out after landing awkwardly.
The Saints boss took great encouragement from the way his side responded to the setbacks.
“I will use it as a positive,” he said. “You come and get beat 5-0, it’s difficult. But you come and defend your trophy with a lot of pride and a lot of courage, we will use that as a massive positive.
“I could see the players were so disappointed to lose the game but I am going to use it as a positive.
“We know we can compete with whatever team we play against. If we set up right, work hard together as a unit, we will always cause problems and always create chances.”
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