Anthony Ralston's surprise Celtic outing is a plus for him

By David Walton

July 30, 2019

Anthony Ralston’s Celtic performances haven’t been up to par, and it looked as though his Parkhead exit was inevitable.

But tonight, it’s fair to say many Celtic fans will have been surprised by his inclusion against Nomme Kalju. After all, Ralston was an unused substitute in both of the matches against Sarajevo in the first qualifying round. He then failed to even make the squad in last week’s 5-0 rout of Nomme Kalju at Celtic Park.

His inclusion tonight could’ve been avoided had Neil Lennon wanted it to. Nir Bitton or Kristoffer Ajer could’ve slotted in as a right-side centre-half in a back three. But Ralston’s sudden appearance could be an indication that Lennon would like to keep him around.

Anthony Ralston (right) was given a Celtic reprieve tonight (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)

There have been no reported offers for Ralston’s services this summer. It remains to be seen whether we send him out on loan to another Scottish side or perhaps let him go if an offer comes in. But you could see Lennon’s thinking if that isn’t the case.

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As it stands, he remains the only natural right-back outside of Hatem Abd Elhamed. Lenny could easily fancy keeping him around given the lack of alternatives. Of course, if we sign another right-back before the transfer window closes, that could all change yet again.

The Hoops boss has also stated that he doesn’t want Kristoffer Ajer playing at right-back often (BBC, 21:04). So that could be a further sign that Ralston could still have a place for now.

Ralston did himself no real harm tonight

Ralston’s performance tonight was pretty unspectacular, but it was likely how he wanted it to be. He wouldn’t have wanted to do himself any more damage in the eyes of those who value him pretty lowly amongst the support.

Ralston did well enough tonight in Estonia (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)

And there were pros and cons tonight for him to take away from the performance. His passing blew hot and cold at times, and he struggled to get decent deliveries into the penalty area.

However, Ralston can be satisfied with his positioning and concentration levels when Kalju tried to get down his side. He was positive enough, but it’ll take a lot more than one average display to win over those who still believe he’s unconvincing.

Neil Lennon surprised everyone with Ralston’s inclusion tonight (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

But the plus-points for him tonight are obvious. His Celtic career may very well have just been saved with his outing tonight. He’s clearly still in Lennon’s plans in some way or another. Playing regularly this season still looks unlikely, but just being out on the pitch is a substantial improvement from where he was a couple of weeks ago.

Attentions now turn to Saturday against St Johnstone, and Ralston will just be hoping he gets kept in the squad. But, when you look at the bigger picture, you still have to think it would be better for his career if he headed off this summer.