Australia’s Ange Postecoglou has taken Scottish giants Celtic to a cup final just months into his reign at the Glasgow club.
Substitute James Forrest fired home the only goal from close range in the 73rd minute as Celtic edged past a stubborn St Johnstone side 1-0 in the league cup semi-final.
Forrest missed the vast majority of last season with an ankle injury and COVID and fitness issues have hampered him this season.
But he has now come on in the past four games following six weeks out and Postecoglou expects the 30-year-old to be a major part of his squad.
“I have been patient with him to get his body right because I knew once he was fit, he is a quality player, an experienced player, a national team player,” the Celtic boss said. “And I know the way we play will suit him.
“It was great for him to come on, and it’s part of the reason we are kind of on a good run, because we have that ability now to bring people on from the bench that can still make a difference.”
Celtic fans and players had paid tribute to Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld six days after his death and Forrest proved an appropriate goalscorer.
Auld once quipped that Celtic considered Hampden their training ground as they were there so often. Forrest, who is no stranger to a goal at the national stadium, set up the chance to win his 20th major trophy when his side face the winners of Sunday’s semi-final between Rangers and Hibernian on December 19.
After a tight first half Celtic were pushed Saints back but struggled to break their opponents down until Forrest was on hand to fire home five minutes after he came on.
Celtic now move on to Thursday’s trip to Germany to face Bayer Leverkusen after two wins over Ferencvaros gave them six points from four matches.
“We have a big game Thursday, that’s our focus now,” Postecoglou said. We celebrated for 90 seconds and looked to the next game.
“It’s a massive game on Thursday night, another great test for us, another great challenge. We got ourselves back into contention in Europe and don’t want to let that slip. That’s another measure for this football club.”