Steve Clarke comments set up long-overdue opening for Celtic defender

By David Walton

May 24, 2022

Steve Clarke yesterday stated that Nathan Patterson is still sidelined with his ankle injury in a message which surely provides a long overdue shot for Anthony Ralston.

Ralston has had to watch on in recent months as the likes of Patterson and Stephen O’Donnell have played ahead of him for the national team. That’s despite the fact he’s been playing more regularly than the former and is clearly streets ahead of the latter.

Indeed, despite a huge renaissance campaign for Ralston, he’s only been given a short cameo against Denmark as his international reward. Thankfully, however, Clarke has picked Anthony for the potential 5-game camp next month in which Scotland will attempt to qualify for Qatar 2022 before 3 Nations League matches.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Patterson has been out for the last 7 weeks after undergoing ankle surgery, and Clarke has confirmed he’s still sidelined with it at the moment. As quoted by the Daily Record, the Scotland boss said: “At some stage over the four or hopefully five matches, Nathan will be fit to play. His return to play is imminent and it will just come down to match fitness.

“I would put him down as doubtful for the Ukraine game.”

That leaves only O’Donnell and Ralston available as potential right-back options, with Patterson unlikely to be playing full 90-minute games immediately after his return.

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Steve Clarke surely opens door for Anthony Ralston involvement

You can’t spin this any other way. Patterson is only just returning from what will be a 9-week injury layoff in the middle of an intense international camp. Chances are his role is restricted to cameo appearances as rushing him back too soon could cause issues.

On the other hand, O’Donnell won’t start all 5 matches. He shouldn’t even be the first choice, but we all know how Clarke feels about the Motherwell right-back. His relationship with O’Donnell stretches back to his days as Kilmarnock boss, and that seems to be helping his game-time at international level.

But with games against Armenia (x2) and Ireland on the cards, there will surely be an opportunity in there for Ralston. Especially with Patterson only just returning. You can’t imagine Everton boss Frank Lampard will be keen to have him too involved.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Clarke has ignored Ralston’s form for long enough. He’s been the standout Scottish right-back in the country this season. Nobody has come close to him. Why he hasn’t had more international outings before now is anyone’s guess.

The June camp, however, looks to be the one in which he’ll get his chance. He simply has to given the lack of options available to Clarke in comparison to the number of fixtures they’ll play.

It feels as if Anthony is having to do a lot more than others to play for his national team. Hopefully, given he’s fresh off a title win, Clarke will try and use that to Scotland’s advantage next month.

In other news, Former Celtic pair team up to KO Hamburg in brilliant Bundesliga playoff win