Celtic winger James Forrest 'had no intention of leaving the Hoops'

James Forrest scoring Celtic's first goal against Hearts at Tynecastle
Image: James Forrest scoring Celtic's first goal against Hearts at Tynecastle

Celtic winger James Forrest insists it was always his intention to sign a new deal with the Scottish champions.

The 25-year-old, who has been involved with Celtic for 16 years, signed a new three-year deal on Wednesday.

Forrest was expected to leave Celtic Park having turned down an earlier offer from the Scottish champions, but he is adamant that was the last thing on his mind.

"I have been here since I was nine. It is just crazy thinking about that. I have been here for so long," said the Scotland international.

"Obviously I signed for another three, maybe four years so I am delighted at that and I will take every year as it comes.

"It is a top club, one of the best clubs in the world. It is massive. Any player is privileged to play here.

James Forrest and Charlie Mulgrew (right) celebrates Celtic's late winner against Shakhter Karagandy
Image: Forrest and Charlie Mulgrew (right) celebrates Celtic's late winner against Shakhter Karagandy

"I have been glad to come through the youths and play in the first team as well and I just want to play as many games as I can for this club."

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Forrest has impressed in the early weeks of the season, and scored his first goal of the campaign in the 2-1 victory over Hearts at Tynecastle last Sunday.

Having struggled with injuries over the past three years, Forrest concedes he approached the new season feeling he had a point to prove, particularly as manager Brendan Rodgers was keen to see the player remain at the club.

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers and Kolo Toure share a laugh in training
Image: All Celtic players start with clean slate under Rodgers, says Forrest

"He didn't have to convince me. I spoke to him in the off-season when he first got announced," he added.

"I said to him I wanted to stay and he said to come back in pre-season and show us what you have got and that everybody would get the same chance to impress. All the boys have come in and it is a clean slate for everyone.

"You just need to keep performing. We have a lot of players in the squad and if you are not doing it the manager can change it. I have been fine for maybe two years now, but you get fitter the more you train and play.

James Forrest with Lisbon Lion John Clark promoting Saturday's match against Inter Milan
Image: Forrest with Lisbon Lion John Clark promoting Saturday's match against Inter Milan

"At the end of last season I was feeling fit but wasn't playing games. It is just about playing as many games as you can."

Rodgers will utilise his squad for Saturday's International Champions Cup game against Inter Milan in Limerick, which is live on Sky Sports 2.

Celtic host Hapoel Be'er Sheva of Israel in the Champions League play-off first leg on Wednesday in Glasgow.

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The Hoops are looking to reach the group stages of the competition for the first time in three seasons, when Forrest scored a stoppage-time winner at Celtic Park to earn a 3-2 aggregate victory over Kazakhstan side Shakhtar Karagandy.

"To score the winner to get Celtic into the Champions League, there is not much better," Forrest said.

"We got beat 2-0 away from home and then came back and won 3-0 at home so that was great for the club and obviously it was the last time we were in the Champions League.

"We haven't been in it the last couple of years so we have got the chance with two games coming up to rectify that and that is what everybody here wants."

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