'Massive Loss' - Exclusive: McLeish gutted as brilliant Celtic player ruled out for months
Losing James Forrest to injury has been a “massive” blow for Celtic this season, according to Alex McLeish.
The former Rangers and Scotland manager, speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, compared the impact of the Scotland international’s absence at Parkhead to Gareth Bale’s departure from Tottenham in 2013.
As quoted by the Glasgow Times, Neil Lennon confirmed the 29-year-old was likely to be missing until at least the end of January after undergoing surgery on an ankle problem at the start of November.
At the time, the Northern Irish boss revealed he hoped to have the Scotland international back in “six to eight weeks” but the winger’s prospective return has been pushed back.
Forrest has played just 10 times this season and has been forced to watch his teammates struggle from the Parkhead stands.
Asked how much he thought Celtic were missing Forrest, McLeish told Football Insider: “Massive loss, a massive loss.
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“We’ve said before about Gareth Bale leaving Tottenham and Tottenham are like: ‘We’ve got £80million to spend, we’ll splurge on six, seven players,’ and you think six or seven can outdo what one player does and that didn’t happen with Spurs.
“It took a long time for a lot of those players to develop and some of them never worked. That’s kind of an example of what I’m saying about special players and, you know, James Forrest has been a special player for Celtic and, not only that, he was a special player for me and for Scotland.
“To lose a key player in your team can cause a disruption to the whole team. I’m not saying that’s the reason for Celtic’s difficult start but Forrest is a player who makes that team tick, even if he’s not in form, it’s just that he puts the fear of death into a defender.
“Even if he’s not at his best and a defender maybe marks him out the game, other players flourish and that’s the things that you don’t really see when you’re involved in the professional side of the game.”