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Following in the footsteps of James Forrest

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Academy Bhoy

Celtic’s Academy kids are being put through their pre-season paces with James Forrest in mind.

As the club’s youngest players adapt to the demands of the professional game Forrest is making his mark in North America with the first team squad.

Facing up to Ryan Giggs in Toronto and coming on as a substitute against Seattle Sounders Forrest looked perfectly at home, catching the eye with his pace and close control- the qualities that made him stand out coming through the ranks at the club.

Tommy McIntyre overseas the professional side of club’s Academy and co-ordinates the development programme of players at u-17 and u-19 level.

There’s nothing more rewarding for coaches at a club than seeing a player come through to make an impact in the first-team with McIntyre striving to ensure that there are more kids to follow Forrest into top team action.

He explained: “It’s great for young players to see how well James is doing.

“I’ve told them to look at James Forrest, James Keatings, Richie Towell and Sean Fitzharris who are progressing and there’s evidence that all of the work that we did last year is paying off.

“James Forrest did really well last season with our 19s, by all accounts he was one of the top players with the international team and he scored within ten minutes of making his first team debut.

“That gives encouragement to everyone at the Academy and throughout the club. James epitomises what we’re trying to do. They can take that example on board.

“This is only the beginning for James, it’s a new chapter for him but he’s taking to it well and his progress is very pleasing for everyone at the club.”

On Saturday Celtic played a double bill of games with the reserve/development squad drawing 1-1 with Partick Thistle while the new look u-19 side outclassed Wigan in a 4-2 win at Barrafield.

There was no pre-season feel about the u-19 game of players easing their way into the new season. From the first whistle the young Celtic players were eager to impress and impose their authority on the match.

The performance and attitude delighted McIntyre, and u-19 coach Stevie Frail, working with a group of players who’d only returned for pre-season training two weeks earlier.

“The performance against Wigan was very pleasing,” McIntyre added. “At this stage it’s about players gaining fitness and getting used to the system that we play.

“We had three different year groups playing against Wigan, younger players gaining experience and they did well against tougher opposition than they are used to. English teams always give us a good game, the matches are played in the right spirit and some of the performances were very pleasing.

“Throughout the Academy we try to develop players in the same manner and with the same philosophy. When they do come up it’s testimony to the coaches at a younger level the fact that they are technically astute. They are good players but you need a lot more than that to be successful.

“It helps when we know that they’ve had a good grounding of up to five years before we work with them at the professional level.

“Pre-season training is much more scientific these days, we’ve all learned from past experiences.

“Our full-time players handle the pre-season work well. The players coming from school are full of enthusiasm but we have to be careful with them, they are still developing and adapting to going full-time.

“We plan it according to the different ages, we have to know when to step back and when to increase the tempo of the training.

“Everything is geared towards getting them ready for the start of the season. There will be high intensity periods but we also allow them to recover, relax and make sure that they are peaking for the games or the start of the season.”

The u-19 SPL season doesn’t start until August 28.

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