Clarke delivers Ralston farcical Scotland snub despite excellent Celtic performances

By Euan Davidson

March 15, 2022

Scotland manager Steve Clarke has picked his squad, and it features a couple of prominent Celtic players – but not Anthony Ralston.

Instead, Scotland have called up Nathan Patterson, who’s being muscled out of the Everton first-team by forgettable ex-Hoops loanee Jonjoe Kenny, and Stephen O’Donnell of Motherwell.

Anthony Ralston, who has been resurgent for Celtic in 21-22, has shone on the right of the Hoops defence. All in, he’s managed a whopping 5 goals and 7 assists from defence [Transfermarkt], while putting in consistent defensive performances.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Callum McGregor and Greg Taylor were called up by Steve Clarke – no surprises there. But with Scotland’s biggest weakness coming at right back, it’s a curious decision.

O’Donnell, by his standards, has had a poor season. WhoScored? has rated his average performance in the Premiership a lowly 6.29. Patterson, meanwhile, has barely made a mark at Everton since signing in January.

The Scotland squad was revealed on Twitter within the last hour:

Even taking the green-tinted specs off for a second, it’s objectively very strange from Clarke here. While the Scotland manager has stressed the importance of keeping a coherent group together, there are still new faces in the squad. Liam Kelly, Jacob Brown, Aaron Hickey – it’s not as if the manager isn’t experimenting.

As a Scotland fan, I’d be far more comfortable with Ralston patrolling the right than O’Donnell or Patterson, on current form. There’s no argument from me that Patterson can be an effective player, and he has potential. He’s not exactly doing a great deal at the moment, though.

Ralston is. It’s more than a bit baffling.

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Scotland snub for Celtic man Ralston is very, very strange

Again, obviously there is some inherent bias; we like Ralston, and Celtic players getting called up for Scotland is uniformly a good thing.

Although, conversely, there’ll be Celtic fans of the opinion that only having two call-ups to the Scotland squad means some important players are at Lennoxtown instead. There’s value to that point, too.

Even then though, it seems objectively the case that Ralston is the star Scottish right-back, more so than Patterson or O’Donnell. It wouldn’t even be his first Scotland cap – that came against Denmark earlier this season. And if anything, the Celtic Academy graduate has only done more to bolster his case since then.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

All in, it’s just odd. Stephen O’Donnell has shown form for Scotland before, no doubt. But on the basis of picking in-form players, does he really get in ahead of Anthony Ralston?

Surely not. Yet, here we are.

You have to hope, eventually, Celtic man Ralston will get his more consistent Scotland opportunities eventually. This season, he’s absolutely earning it.

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