Celtic's Anthony Ralston opens up on cup final omission - 'it's not about me'

There has only been one moment in the past six months that the renaissance enjoyed by Anthony Ralston didn’t quite deliver for Celtic’s transformed right-back.

Celtic’s Anthony Ralston celebrates with the Premier Sports Cup trophy.
Celtic’s Anthony Ralston celebrates with the Premier Sports Cup trophy.

The 23-year-old put so much into reviving his career with form and focus that has epitomised the new life that Ange Postecoglou has breathed into the club, that a cup final day at Hampden when he was front and centre seemed owed to him.

Yet, as Postecoglou snared his first silverware at the club with 2-1 triumph over Hibs in the Premier Sports Cup decider at the national stadium a fortnight ago, Ralston found himself on the bench until the closing 15 minutes of an occasion that earned him a first winners’ medal five-and-a-half years on from his senior debut for his boyhood club. It won’t allow the letdown to cloud the astonishing turnaround in his status as a Celtic player that he admits has been “a bit mental”.

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“These things happen in football but you can’t get too high on the highs or low on the lows,” Ralston said of his omission from the cup final starting line-up. “We’re all together now as a team. It’s not about me or any other individuals. We got success from that day which is the main thing. We won as a team and that was the mentality I had that day at Hampden.”

Ralston’s strength of character has been revealed in its full glory through his refusal to give up on making an impact with the club. A place where, until Postecoglou’s arrival, he had become a whipping boy for the support on the rare occasions that he did feature for the first team between loan spells with Dundee United and St Johnstone. Ralston isn’t minded to spend too much time picking apart everything that has changed for him professionally in 2021 – becoming a father for the first time in February to daughter Mila proving the impetus to “push” himself “to the limit” in a bid to carve out a niche in Celtic’s squad.

“I haven’t really had a chance to sit back and think about it,” said the Celtic full-back. “But I’m sure when that time comes, it’ll be something I’m really proud of from a personal point of view. To come from where I was at the beginning of the season to where I am now, it’s been a massive turnaround. I’m proud of myself for what I’ve managed to achieve. But it’s only the beginning for me. It’s no secret that I want to play for Celtic. I want to have my career here. I want to keep going in this direction but I’m delighted by how the season’s gone so far for myself – because I feel I’ve contributed to the team in such a positive way. I hope I can continue to do that in the second half of the season.

“Just through the course of last season [I thought my time at Celtic might be ending as] I didn’t get much game time and I was coming towards the end of my contract. It was normal to think that. But I never gave up. I had the opportunity to extend for a year so I took it. And through that, I got playing. In the last few months, I’ve signed up on a long-term contract. Things change in football so quickly. You have to just stay positive, keep the right mindset and work hard. That’s what I did.”