Forrest 'buzzing' at Hearts Euro opportunity as he reveals chats with brother James

·3-min read
Forrest 'buzzing' at Hearts Euro opportunity as he reveals chats with brother James
Forrest 'buzzing' at Hearts Euro opportunity as he reveals chats with brother James

EUROPEAN football will be a novel experience for Alan Forrest, but the Hearts winger does not have far to look for the ideal role model.

Brother James has racked up more than 100 appearances in continental competition over the years with Celtic, many of which Alan has taken in from the vantage point of a seat in the stands.

Following in his older sibling’s footsteps has, during his seven seasons with Ayr United and two years with Livingston, seemed a far-off dream for Hearts’ summer signing. However, this week’s trip to face FC Zurich in their Europa League play-off will finally give Forrest junior a taste of the action.

“I’m buzzing to get the chance to play [in Europe],” he added. “I have come from Ayr and Livingston who haven’t had that chance. So to experience that is something I am really looking forward to.

“I’ve always wanted that, but I never thought too much about it. Obviously when you’re playing in League One and the Championship it feels far away but I never thought it was out of reach.

“Speaking to James and him telling me how good European football is, it’s good for me to have that there to push towards it.

“We’ve spoken about it because it’s new for me but he’s basically had it his whole career. He’s told me it’s tough to get used to at the start but he enjoyed it and he’s told me to embrace it.”

Hearts have been determined this week to keep their focus on this afternoon’s encounter with Dundee United, a team reeling from their own foray into Europe this week. The Tangerines were handed a lesson by AZ Alkmaar on Thursday night and will be eager to prove their Dutch disaster was a humiliating glitch that can be repaired in the Premiership.

Had things turned out differently, Forrest could have been turning out for today’s opponents. United tried hard to entice the 25-year-old to Tannadice in the summer, but instead he chose Hearts. Wind the clock back further and an unsettled Forrest could have left Livingston for St Johnstone in January when the Lions accepted an offer during the transfer window. After talks with the Perth outfit, who went on to flirt with relegation, he opted to stay put and is glad with the way his ‘sliding doors’ moments have turned out.

“For a lot of players things happen in different ways and you can’t really explain why,” he said of his January decision. “That was one of those for me.

“When I look back at the season I had last year I played most of the games and had a positive season, and I feel I kicked on and chipped in with more goals and assists. It feels like it has all worked out really well for me. I’m delighted.

“There were a few options [this summer] but as soon as I heard Hearts were interested that was the main one for me, that’s all I was focused on. There may have been interest from elsewhere but I was fixed on here. I’m delighted to be here and I just want to kick on.”

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson, meanwhile, believes coping with the double demands of domestic and European football this season will be as much a mental challenge as a physical one.

“We have tried to get a squad where we believe the players can play most of the games and guys come in and out as well and keep standards up,” he said. “It's a privilege to go and play in Europe, so we see as it as positive. You play Thursday, you play Sunday and you keep doing it. All the top players can do it, so it comes down to mentality rather than physicality.”