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James Keatings: Celtic boss Rodgers responsible for Forrest's success

James Keatings: Celtic boss Rodgers responsible for Forrest's success
© Reuters
Hamilton striker Keatings began his career at Celtic with Forrest, who has scored five goals for Scotland in their last two matches.

Hamilton striker James Keatings says Scotland boss Alex McLeish has Brendan Rodgers to thank for James Forrest's emergence as the saviour of the national team.

Accies frontman Keatings started his career at Celtic and spent a decade in the same youth teams as Forrest.

It was always clear to him that Forrest would go on to become a star, but Keatings believes it was the arrival of former Liverpool boss Rodgers at Parkhead that has ensured Forrest is now maximising his potential.

McLeish will be grateful for that after watching the 27-year-old explode into life for the national team, firing five goals in two games against Albania and Israel to propel Scotland to the Nations League play-offs.

Keatings, who will come up against his old academy friend when Hamilton host the champions on Saturday, said: "As we saw at Hampden on Tuesday night, James is on a hot vein of form with his hat-trick.

"I was with Jamesy for 10 years while I was coming through at Celtic. I saw him make his way up through the youth teams and he was already a great player then.

"As a young lad, his pace was his biggest attribute but he's added so much to his game since then. His final delivery, his goals, his movement.

"He has improved a lot under Brendan Rodgers and has taken his game to the next level.

"He has obviously taken his career all the way to the top since we played together. He's still at Celtic and has gone up through the levels. He is showing now how good a player he is.

"It's taken him a long time to get his first Scotland goal but that's just one of those things. You're always looking for your first goal and can sometimes put pressure on yourself to get it.

"But he's obviously scored against Albania and before you know it he's banged in five in two games.

"James is a top player and high on confidence – and a player high on confidence can do anything they want.

"He has shown in the past how good he can be but over these two games, he's taken the matches by the scruff of the neck. He's capable of doing that week in, week out for both Celtic and Scotland."

Forrest has been flying for Scotland but Keatings is now hoping the winger and the rest of the Hoops line-up come crashing down on the plastic Hope Stadium pitch.

Rodgers' team have not had much luck on artificial surfaces this season. They lost 2-1 at Kilmarnock in September and were held to a 0-0 draw at Livingston's Tony Macaroni Arena before the international break.

Keatings added: "We've seen over the last few weeks that Celtic are moving the ball freely and scoring goals again.

"It's up to us to implement our game plan and try to stop them. We're on the astro again and we saw they struggled a bit against Livingston to get their game going.

"We're used to the surface but hopefully they are not quite as free-flowing when they come here.

"Can the pitch slow them down? Well, I hope so. It's different from grass obviously and we have got to use the pitch to our advantage.

"We work on it every single day, we know how the ball moves and how it bounces on it. Hopefully that will help us come Saturday."

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