Celtic star Anthony Ralston has spoken about last season and how he believed his time at Parkhead was up before the arrival of Ange Postecoglou.
Ralston has burst into life after being given a sustained run of games by the new manager. His renaissance has shocked everyone, highlighted by the anger that surrounded the Celtic support when he was handed a contract extension at the start of the season.
The right-back made his debut for the Hoops under Ronny Deila back in 2016. However, after 4 years of being on the outside combined with failing to make an impact in loan spells with Dundee United and St Johnstone respectively, Ralston looked certain to depart.
However, he’s taken his final opportunity with both hands this season to make himself one of the top performing defenders in the Premiership. And as he reflected on his incredible Celtic turnaround, he admitted even he believed his time in Glasgow was up.
As quoted by Sky Sports, Ralston said: “It was natural for me to think it (my Celtic career) was coming to an end. I’ve been here since the age of eight and coming through all the years at the academy, it comes with a lot of ups and downs.
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“It was a hard season last season, especially when you’re not playing and you’re not involved. I spent a lot of time on the training pitch and put my work in there. When you’re not playing it’s not easy at times but you need to keep yourself right.
“At the beginning it was new and I had to learn it (the new role). Every day in training it was something we worked on. When I found myself in midfield at the beginning it was strange, I’ve never had to check around about me as everything is usually in front of me. I’m enjoying it, I think it goes back to the clear messages the gaffer gave and the instructions of how he wanted it done. It instilled that confidence and belief that you can go and do it.”
Anthony Ralston – one of the first names on the Celtic teamsheet
It says a lot about Ralston that he’s not just part of Celtic’s strongest XI, he’s one of the first names on the teamsheet.
Everything about his game has improved. His crossing ability, his passing, and his defensive one-v-ones have all seen a rapid rise in quality. Not to mention the fact Ralston’s ball-retention is of as high a quality as it’s been at any previous stage of his Celtic career. It’s absolutely perplexing as to where this improvement has even come from.
He’s even managed to keep out Croatia’s number one right-back in Josip Juranovic. Indeed, the only occasions in which the former Legia Warsaw man has played in his strongest position have come when Ralston has been sidelined or off the pitch.
Yes, there will be dips in his performance levels as the season goes on. We won’t pretend it’s been all perfect since the season began. But generally, there’s been a meteoric improvement that’s led to Ralston being handed a new long-term contract. Firm backing from the manager.
And nobody can say it’s undeserved either. The truth is there isn’t a player in Scottish football who has achieved the level of improvement Ralston has over the last 5 months. From looking certain to be out the exit door to a first name on the teamsheet? It’s a story that seems too good to be true.
But all credit to the academy graduate. He’s more than earned the rewards he’s now reaping. All we’re hoping for is fans is that it continues for the long-term.