James Forrest has come off his crutches but is unlikely to be seen on the pitch before the end of January, according to Neil Lennon.

Celtic have badly missed the influence of the Scotland internationalist who has regularly made a significant contribution in terms of goals and assists; last season the 29-year-old netted 16 goals before the premature conclusion of the campaign in March.

Forrest has been a mainstay of Celtic’s drive towards ten-in-a-row with his presence most acutely felt when he has been absent. The winger had to have surgery on a persistent ankle injury and has not played since Celtic’s Europa League game against Riga in September.

“He is coming off the crutches at the weekend which is a step in the right direction,” said Lennon. “We are probably looking at the end of January. By then we will have an idea of where he is.

“January would be too soon. Mikey Johnston is back in training, he will play 45 minutes with the development team on Monday so we are assessing him.
Again it will be maybe cameo performances from Mikey while we work on his fitness.”

Meanwhile, Lennon has also insisted that Karamoko Dembele still needs to develop physically. The 17-year-old has been in the spotlight since he played for the club’s under-20 side when he was just 13.

With speculation linking the talent teenager elsewhere, Lennon has been keen to keep a lid on expectations around the player who has attracted plenty of interest.

“He is 17 so again he had a lot of attention when he was younger but he is just making steady progress with the development side,” he said. “It is difficult for the kids because there is no real games programme for them this year and we have had to try and find games for them sporadically.

“We just have to be careful with him and not throw him in too early. He may even develop with him physically. We just have to be patient, we know he is a quality player but physically he still has a bit of development to do to be part of the first team squad.”