Ralston returns to fitness, is he ready to rival Lustig for the right-back shirt?

By Ruari Macneil

February 8, 2018

Teenage prospect Anthony Ralston, 19, has completed his recovery from a knee injury as he turned out for the Celtic under-20 side who beat St Johnstone 3-0 on Monday.

The youngster made his first competitive appearance since his injury in late September.

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Ralston had enjoyed a decent run in the first team, prior to being side lined – having featured 7 times for the Celts in August and September.

Going on the evidence presented by the Celtic Academy Twitter feed, it appears the right-back had some game:

The Scotland under-21 international endeared himself to the Celtic fans through a wonderfully spirited performance against PSG last year under difficult circumstances. Despite losing heavily, Ralston did himself justice and shook the world’s most expensive player Neymar so much so that the Brazilian refused to shake the teenager’s hand after the game.

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Having returned to training in December, the academy graduate was duly rewarded with a long-term contract which will keep him at the club until 2020. In recent weeks, Brendan Rodgers has opted to go for a back three, with Jack Hendry, Dedryk Boyata and Kristoffer Ajer making up the centre-back trio.

With Mikael Lustig still currently out, and Ajer and Boyata joining the long list of injured Celts after last weekend’s loss, Rodgers will likely be reverting back to a back four ahead of the Zenit St Petersburg tie next week – and Ralston will have his eyes set on continuing where he left off before his injury.

A terrific servant to Celtic Football Club over the past 6 years since his arrival from Rosenborg, Lustig’s performances have began to decline in recent months, with the Swede drawing heavy criticism after his efforts in the 0-0 draw against Rangers at Parkhead in December.

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With the out of favour Cristian Gamboa as Celtic’s alternative right-back option, Ralston has a real chance of emulating the likes of Kieran Tierney by capitalising on the poor form of an existing senior full-back and making the position his own.

Despite only being one year older, Tierney should be a clear-cut role model for Ralston, having successfully pushed out long serving left-back Emilio Izaguirre to make the position his own.

Izaguirre, like Lustig, had consistently been Celtic’s starting full-back for the past 7 years, but none of this mattered to Rodgers or Ronny Deila who both decided to opt for Tierney following the youngster’s emergence.

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Should Ralston make it as a first team regular, he will join the likes of Tierney, Callum McGregor and James Forrest who all successfully broke into the Celtic first team from the youth academy.


List page image © Ronnie Macdonald