After a disappointing trip to Salzburg last week, Celtic made their second visit McDiarmid Park in less than two weeks. Having beaten St Johnstone 0-1 in the League Cup, a common scoreline for Celtic this season, there was always the possibility that they could stumble after a second half capitulation in Austria on Thursday night.
What occurred couldn’t have been further from that. Celtic were on fire and in particular, one player.
Whatever went wrong in Salzburg Brendan and the Bhoys shrugged it off, but they will need to resolve those issues before the next Europa League match. However, Celtic exorcised that defeat with a scintillating victory in Perth on Sunday afternoon.
I had mixed feelings about this game and came close to not catching it on TV at all. Well, I’m glad that the way my day panned out that I did.
Once Celtic got into their stride, they were ruthless. Those players who have been less than impressive so far this season looked to have shrugged off the shackles of poor form.
We’ll talk about the man-of-the-match in a moment. There is cause to mention a few others first.
Looking sharp again was Tom Rogic. The Aussie international has looked short of…well everything this season.
It could well be that he had never fully recovered from his World Cup ventures. He was back to his best on Sunday and that is great news for Brendan Rodgers.
That creativity has been sorely missing from the team. Now the Wizard of Oz back on form.
Another player looking back to his effervescent self again was Callum McGregor. Usually a reliable and versatile player, he has also been off the boil.
Against St Johnstone it looked as though he had found his rhythm again. Callum is a tireless player with a tremendous work rate.
He maintained that throughout this game and even scored the final goal of the game to complete the 0-6 rout. This could be a key turning point for his season.
Although not so much off the boil, Odsonne Edouard has been posted missing during some matches. Well, he wasn’t hiding in this one as he put himself about.
He played wide left allowing Leigh Griffiths to play as the target man. However, it was Edouard who got on the score sheet.
The Frenchman killed a fierce square ball from Kieran Tierney with his right foot. He let it drop and bounce once before smashing it home with his left foot, just inside the penalty area to score the second goal of the game.
It was a fine goal from the £9M player. He’d been involved throughout the game, but his goal was superb.
Captain for the second game in a row, Mikael Lustig, also had a good match. He is definitely a player who divides the opinion amongst the support.
There are a lot of fans who would rather see Cristian Gamboa or Anthony Ralston over Lustig. Brendan has persevered with the Swedish international yet again this season despite the early promise of forgotten man, Gamboa, during the summer.
On his day, Lustig is a good player. He has bags of experience, but at times can look a little leggy and off the pace.
Occasionally, he can stand up and take the game to the opposition, making runs down the right, whipping in crosses and even bagging a goal for himself. However, there are times when he is under pressure from the opposition and has been found out which is where some of the fans lose their patience with him.
I’m on the fence to be quite honest. I think he’s a good player who enjoys playing for Centric and despite having injury troubles over the years has been a valuable player.
On Sunday he played like a captain should. Always involved and influencing others.
That is not to say that there aren’t others in the team capable of doing so or better. We’ve already seen Kieran Tierney wear the armband and show his influence.
On the subject of influence, I come to the man-of-the-match, James Forrest. This was the game of his life.
James has been at the club since he was 11 years old. He broke into the Celtic team at the age of 18 under then caretaker manager, Neil Lennon.
Following the permanent appointment of Lennon, Forrest became an integral part of his squad. There were always two things that held James back though – inconsistent form and regular injuries.
On his day James was capable of terrifying the opposition with his direct play and eye for goal. When injury or form struck, Celtic would often be left without someone to step up and perform in that position.
Under Brendan Rodgers, James has found both the form and the fitness that has made him the player we all knew he was. We just hadn’t been seeing enough of it.
On Sunday against St Johnstone he was devastating. In a demolition of the Perthshire club, he scored four of the goals himself.
Maturity is doing all the right things for James. He’s in his ninth full season of first team football at the club, just signed a new contract and still only 27 years old.
Whilst we mourned the loss of Paddy Roberts, James Forrest has seized the role for himself. He was at the centre of everything against St Johnstone.
Not just on the attack. James was tracking back as well.
The goals he scored were all things of beauty. Great interplay with team mates and individuality saw off the opposition.
I felt that last season he was unlucky not to get player of the year which went to his team-mate and club captain, Scott Brown. If James keeps this form up for the rest of the season he might just take all of the plaudits for himself.
At a time when Celtic need to pick up the pace, James has taken the initiative. Let’s hope that continues for rest of this season at home and abroad.