Celtic to reach 'other levels' as club stand-out targets World Cup play-off

In the great list of motivitational quotes, framing where Celtic now find themselves is perhaps best illustrated by the assertion that success is not in reaching the top; it is in staying there.

The adage encapsulates the scenario facing Anthony Ralston as much as his title and League Cup winning club. While Celtic’s double under Ange Postecoglou was wholly unexpected, even more inconceivable was the pivotal role the 23-year-old played in them. It seemed that the full-back would never truly make the grade at his boyhood club following five years when he had largely been in the shadows. Ralston stepped out of them in spectacular style, making 47 appearances, signing two contracts and earning a first full Scotland cap. And he is convinced there need be no one-off nature to what he and Celtic achieved in the season now concluded. With direct entry to the Champions League next term bringing both added burdens and possibilities.

“I think the potential for this team goes beyond where we’re at just now,” he said. “We’ve got other levels to go. I feel it’s been a terrific season. But we’ll be looking to come back bigger and better and be stronger next season. That’s definitely our aim. Going straight into the Champions League is something all the boys will be looking forward to. To play European football, that’s where the club wants to be. We want to do it domestically, but Europe’s also very important…and there’s no bigger stage than the Champions League.”

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It is possible the landmark moments aren’t complete for Ralston in the campaign, who is hoing to have more to digest over his transformative year. He has fingers crossed he is named in Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad for the country’s World Cup play-off at home to Ukraine on June 1 - which it is hoped will lead to a final in Wales on June 5.

“For every player a Scotland debut is a landmark in their career they want to hit,” he said. “I’m delighted I was able to do so. It’s maybe something that last season I didn’t think would come around. There’s been many things and now I’m looking forward to the summer. Maybe there will be the opportunity to go away with my country again which would be something I’ve worked hard to get. There could still be a lot going on. Maybe when I get a bit of time everything this past year will be something I’ll be able to look back on and reflect on.”

Celtic defender Anthony Ralston with the cinch Premiership trophy. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

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