James Forrest would become Celtic’s most senior player if Scott Brown leaves – a title he doesn’t want just yet

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AT 27-years-old and with 15 major winners’ medals pocketed, James Forrest is just about the most experienced players in the Celtic dressing room.

But he doesn’t want to be the number one senior guy. Not yet.

That’s what would happen if Scott Brown, with 17 medals sitting on his cabinet, left in the summer, which is an incredible thought given that the ridiculously boyish Forrest still looks about 12 even after 315 games and nine years since his debut.

The guests of the Dubai hotel Celtic are staying in who don’t know what a Celtic is may well have wondered why some media people were interviewing Forrest without his parents being there.

And yet, this is one of the club’s most decorated players of all time, a footballer who has blossomed into one of Brendan Rodgers’s go-to men, a dynamic winger who surely now must start every game for his country.

However, for all that, Forrest would rather it was his captain, and not him, who remained father of the house. For a few years more at least.

Forrest said: “Everyone has their opinions about Scott but inside the club, the players and staff know how influential he is on and off the park.

“Right since I came through he has always been the same and even now he could well be the fittest he has ever been. It’s incredible how long he has done it and he still has a few years left in him.

“Broony has always been in and about the place every day. I think he likes players first and foremost, especially those who work hard and give it everything.

“You earn his respect for doing that and obviously when you go out on to the park you have to produce as well. Everyone at the club knows just how big an influence he is and definitely everyone wants him to stay.

“Everyone who knows him knows he wants to play in every game and he has done since he came here. I can only say for me I hope he stays because he has a lot to offer for the team and, as I said on, and off the park.”

Brown has over 500 games as a Celt, a club he joined in 2007, which can seem like a lifetime ago. He’s 34 in the summer, he won’t go on forever and the temptation of a life in Australian or the United States must be appealing.

And it won’t just be a player Celtic lose when the skipper finally does say his goodbyes.

Forrest said: “Ever since I have been here there have been different changing rooms and he has always been there, he’s kept everyone together.

“You maybe hear different stories from different teams and how they work but Broony is massive in that part as well that people maybe don’t see.

“For me, he has always been the captain, the main man, and if he did leave for me it definitely would be strange. He’s great with young boys and new signings as well. He’s invaluable I would say.

“The manager has come out and said he’s earned the respect to make his mind up. It’s a big decision and one he’s not going to make overnight. Whatever he does everyone will back him.

“Everyone knows he has been linked with a move over the past six months but, as I said, it’s up to him but I hope he doesn’t go.”

Forrest admits he has never met anyone else like his team-mate, a man for whom sleeping is something he has to endure before attacking the day with the energy of a child high on sweets and fizzy drinks.

Forrest said: “He’s a one-off. I have said before he’s great with the young boys, and with the different nationalities as well, which I don’t think many people have got even when you go into the international set-up as well he just earns respect from everyone and that’s just credit to his nature. Off the park as well I think everyone respects him.

“Broony wants to play every game, every minute. When he got injured there he came back and when you see him in training he is as fit as ever so I think he knows himself that he can still do it for another couple of years and for a player like that we definitely need him in the team.”

Celtic will be back to league business soon enough and are anxious to put that day at Ibrox behind them. New signings have been made, which the squad needed and there has been more than one conversation behind closed doors between the group about that performance against Rangers not being allowed to happen again.

Forrest said: “We know we did not do what we could against Rangers. You can say we did not turn up, didn’t create the chances going forward or defend well as a team. Overall the result was probably fair, we weren’t at our best.

“It’s not just against Rangers but if you are not at your best against a few teams you are not going to get the result you want. We need to make sure we rectify that going forward.

“I’ve said a couple of times now that the league is much stronger, there’s a few teams that have really improved, you can see how tight it is as well. I think once we go back for the second half of the season it is going to be tough and we know we need to maybe do a bit more to make sure we do what we want.”

And with that, Forrest is off. Thinking of medal number 16, one more year with his captain and when he’ll be allowed to build sandcastles on the beach. Probably.