How Celtic man Anthony Ralston can end the tiring Nathan Patterson Scotland narrative

By David Walton

October 11, 2021

Nathan Patterson was handed his third competitive start for Scotland in the 3-2 win over Israel on Saturday, with Celtic right-back Anthony Ralston again left out of the squad.

And surprise surprise, people are going way over the top about the performance he produced. Make no mistake, Patterson is a decent talent, but we’ve hardly had a chance to see it given he barely gets a game at Rangers.

Scotland boss Steve Clarke has inexplicably given him the jersey for key World Cup qualification fixtures after telling Ralston that he needed to keep his place in the Celtic team to remain under consideration [PLZ Soccer].

Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

So, on one hand Ralston has to be in the first-team at Celtic for a prolonged period. On the other, his positional rival Patterson is allowed to feature so long as he gets the odd appearance every other week at Ibrox? There’s some double-standards here, and Ralston is right to feel frustrated.

Patterson has played 24 competitive games of football, yet he’s already been labelled Scotland’s best right-back in a tiring narrative that won’t go anywhere [BBC]. Do us a favour. When he starts playing regular first-team football and gets a season or two under his belt then we’ll talk.

Ralston has been performing as Celtic’s first-choice right-back all season. He’s putting in shift after shift and helping stave off competition from Croatia regular Josip Juranovic. Yet if Patterson makes a five-yard pass in a 10-minute cameo that’s what takes the headlines instead.

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I don’t know if you’re allowed to say this, but Patterson was one of Scotland’s poorer players against Israel. That’s fine, his time will come as he’s a promising young talent that has plenty of development left to go. But let’s not pretend he was top notch in a game and environment he actually struggled in.

Ralston, meanwhile, has been thriving under the guidance of Ange Postecoglou. He managed to smash Clarke’s September challenge by staying in the Celtic side, only to disappointingly be snubbed for the current squad.

Anthony Ralston can be a valid rival for Nathan Patterson if given the chance

It gets forgotten about because he broke through in 2017, but Ralston is still only 22 years of age. Some would have you believe he’s about 18 years Patterson’s senior. But he’s in a similar position to the Rangers man yet features on a weekly basis at Parkhead.

Clarke continuing to snub him isn’t a surprise. And it’s clear Ralston really needs to step it up another level to make himself a standout ahead of the November squad.

Whilst he’s kept his place in the Celtic team in recent weeks, there are still deficiencies Ralston needs to work on. Improving his delivery would be an ideal start given we’ve seen a return of some wayward crosses in recent weeks.

And whilst he’s been continuously impressing domestically, it looks as though that isn’t enough. Ralston has still to have a breakthrough performance in Europe. And given the Patterson hype going around, it looks as though the Europa League is where Ralston will need to shine in order to throw himself into the spotlight.

Photo by Soccrates/Getty Images

It’s clear Clarke wasn’t straight with his message about Ralston needing to keep his place in the team. He’s still been overlooked for Patterson and Stephen O’Donnell.

It’s simple – Ralston needs to be the best version of himself possible to be noticed by Scotland. It’s clear he’s a player hampered by his reputation in recent years of being not good enough for Celtic. But this season he’s been proving everyone wrong.

If he can take things up one level further, he’ll be providing Patterson with some genuinely serious competition and ending this frustrating narrative we’ve had to endure in recent months.

In other news, UEFA post class clip of Jota vs Frimpong as Celtic fans laud Benfica-owned talent