JAMES Forrest says that Celtic can handle their most arduous qualifying route to date and make it to the Champions League group stages.

When Forrest started out in the Celtic first-team eight years ago, the Scottish champions only had to play one two-legged tie to make it into the competition, but now they face four gruelling ties, including their first one away to Alashkert in Armenia next Tuesday.

But while Celtic are aggrieved at having to play the highest number of games they ever have in order to qualify, Forrest says there is no point complaining about their lot, and they simply have to deal with the hurdles that have been placed in their way.

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“I remember when I first came in we had to play one qualifying round and we were the seeded team,” Forrest said.

“Ever since in the Champions League we’ve had to play more and more games, and this is the most we have had to play, but it is what it is, and we can’t do anything about it.

“We just need to try and do what we can and hopefully get into the Champions League.

“Obviously it’s really difficult. We’ve got a few weeks training and some pre-season friendlies and we are bang into the hardest games of the season.

“We’re going to Armenia and different countries and playing against teams we haven’t played against before, so it is really difficult.

“We have that extra qualifying round this year as well, so the manager is preparing everybody for it and we can’t moan about it. If we want to get back in it, then we have to make sure we are at it from the first round.”

Forrest is one of Celtic’s most experienced and most decorated players, having now been a mainstay of the side for the best part of a decade and collected 14 honours in that time.

And the 26-year-old Scottish international winger says that he can see himself staying at Parkhead for the rest of his career.

“You know yourself in football that things can change quickly, but to be in the first-team at a club like Celtic for eight years is really good when you think about it,” he said.

“To think about the trophies that you’ve won, I just want to keep working hard and stay here for as long as possible.

“You don’t know what is around the corner, but Celtic is a massive club and you play in massive games, so for me, I want to keep playing for Celtic as long as I can because I know how big the club is having come through the ranks.”

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Having been part of Brendan Rodgers’ double-treble winning squad over the past two campaigns – and, especially last season, a major one at that – Forrest wants to keep adding to the silverware that he has been collecting. 

“I think I’ve won 14 [honours], but when you are playing you don’t really think about it,” said Forrest. 

“Maybe once I stop playing that’s when I will think about it more and realise how good it is.

“In the last two years we’ve been winning every trophy that we’ve been in, so we just want to keep doing that.

“There’s nothing better than winning and playing for Celtic, and that’s what I want to do for as long as I can.”