Celtic right-back Anthony Ralston was well worth a Scotland shout on current form

By Euan Davidson

August 24, 2021

Celtic right-back Anthony Ralston must’ve been close to winning his first call-up for Scotland.

Surely. Given the paucity of options the Tartan Army have to enjoy on the right of defence, Stephen O’Donnell and Nathan Patterson will surely be delighted with their nod from Steve Clarke.

O’Donnell, in particular, impressed at Euro 2020, specifically against England. It seems like a long time ago now, but he nearly broke the deadlock against the Auld Enemy. You don’t drop him. Patterson’s inclusion is another debate to be had elsewhere.

It feels almost funny to write this. Barely a month ago, Ralston signed a new contract with the club, and the news was met with bafflement. Two underwhelming stints with Dundee United and St Johnstone hardly raised his profile.

His upturn, though, has been rapid. Since being given the keys to the right flank by Ange Postecoglou, the 22-year-old’s game has been utterly revitalised. In both defence and attack, Ralston has been every bit the all-action inverted full-back Postecoglou needs.

With Josip Juranovic coming in, a 10-cap international no less, it’s unlikely Ralston will be starting every game. At the least, though, he really ought to have been considered for Scotland inclusion in a vital ‘triple header’ against Denmark, Moldova and Austria [SFA].

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Simply because, at the time of writing, he’s the best-performing right-back in Scotland.

Whether Ralston can add levels to his game at Celtic is unclear, but the signs are good despite Scotland snub

The future for Ralston isn’t certain, but it looks better than it did even a month ago.

It seems odd that he’s just 22. A part of the furniture at Celtic for years, it seemed like his time to make the breakthrough had passed. Instead, he’s resurgent, playing under a manager who’s given him the utmost confidence.

Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images

Along with his two goals and an assist, Ralston is winning 2 aerial duels per 90, completing nearly 90% of his passes, and making 2.7 tackles a game [WhoScored?]. No question, these figures are distorted somewhat by the small sample size, but it’s very, very encouraging.

For comparison, O’Donnell is making 1.5 tackles, and Patterson hasn’t played at all for Rangers in the league this season. Yes, keeping the core of a squad that went to Euro 2020 together is a good idea, but it’s at the risk of including in-form players.

That makes little sense.

The real proof in Ralston’s abilities will be in the totality of the season. It’ll be in whether he can make the right-back role his own despite excellent competition. In the case where he does make the team, can he continue the level of performance he’s shown? There are questions, no doubt.

The international game is so predicated on having the best-performing players at your disposal, though. And in not including Ralston, I can’t help but feel that Steve Clarke is making a mistake.

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