Arguing the Celtic case for Anthony Ralston

By Euan Davidson

April 23, 2021

Celtic full-back Anthony Ralston has been at the club, in some form, since 2009.

The Neymar-botherer is currently the Bhoys’ second-choice right back. And still, there’s debate about whether or not he’s actually any good. Mixed loan spells with St Johnstone and Dundee United haven’t really told us a great deal over recent seasons. In 20-21, he’s only played once, in a nil-all draw against Livingston [BBC].

Would you believe that, despite being at the club for so long, he’s actually played more first-team matches for St Johnstone [Transfermarkt]? Yet, he’s kept around because there must be something about him. Brendan Rodgers, Neil Lennon and John Kennedy have all named him in squads. He’s even played in the Champions League, albeit, it didn’t go significantly well.

With little to play for, and Jonjoe Kenny hardly impressing over recent matches, what harm would it realistically do to play Anthony Ralston until the end of the season? I think there’s a valid case to at least attempt to evaluate the right-back’s game before we go into full rebuild mode this summer.

Back in January, I wondered aloud what was happening with the 22-year-old right-back. There’s something intangibly likeable about the guy; and not just because he’s a Celtic veteran of sorts despite his age.

A picture always worth using / (Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

Jonjoe Kenny hasn’t set the heather alight, and will leave: time for Celtic to properly unleash Anthony Ralston

There’s a small luxury in having an utterly useless season. There is, at this point, nothing to play for other than pride. Sentimentality has ruled the decision making at the club all season, from keeping Neil Lennon on despite results, to team selection.

So, while cases will be made for the likes of Ismaila Soro and Karamoko Dembele – as well they should be – there’s surely good reason to see what Anthony Ralston can actually do.

If you’re willing to warp statistics to make a grandiose point, you could argue that of all the Celtic defenders, Ralston has the best record. 100%, in fact. One game this season, no goals conceded. And dare I say it, he actually looked half-decent while Celtic were decimated by Covid protocols.

Fine, he’ll never be the next Danny McGrain, but he’s at least an energetic full-back. While his tackling has never looked outstanding, he’s at least disciplined enough to feature in a more explorative back-line. At least, for a Celtic squad with little to gain.

Jonjoe Kenny, nominally a Premier League ‘star’, divides the Celtic support to a degree. Perhaps we’ve been too quick to either write him off, or insist he must sign permanently. Either opinion is justifiable. However, given history, we’re more likely to see Anthony Ralston at Celtic next season than we are Kenny.

So why not use him? John Kennedy can afford to be experimental. If he’s good enough to play under Brendan Rodgers, then he can’t make this current crop any worse. At 22, we’ve got to be able to make some kind of decision on his future. If he truly wasn’t Celtic quality, he’d be gone by now. Others have featured more, and left to muted reaction.

So, I’m putting my flag in the ground: John Kennedy, give Anthony Ralston a game.

READ MORE: We need some clarity from Celtic, otherwise daft speculation will rule hearts and minds.