Goal a game Tony Ralston – the only Celtic player to have scored in every Scottish Premiership match this season – has gone under the radar in Ange Postecoglou’s team. The Australian has repeatedly reminded us that the squad he inherited has weaknesses and that he needs recruits in various positions, notably at full-back where Ralston is essentially the only right back at the club.
I wrote an article on The Celtic Star last December suggesting that Ralston should be given a start in Neil Lennon’s desperately faltering side. He only ever got one game and was the Man of the Match, setting up Oko-Flex in the closing seconds of a goalless draw with Livingston in the PD match (post Dubai) when most of the team were isolating. That didn’t merit any further minutes for Ralston who was apparently out of contract in the summer, if Celtic didn’t take up their one year option, which they did.
That was probable done out of necessity and Ralston, who was given game-time under Brendan Rodgers, but was never fancied by Neil Lennon (or John Kennedy), has grabbed his opportunity under Postecoglou. You’d hope that he doesn’t pay too much attention to social media as he’s regularly insulted but if you stand back and look at his performances while Ralston is no DANNY McGRAIN he is a decent squad player and currently the best full-back at the club. And last season, in those dreadful displays against you-know-who, Ralston would have shown more fight and determination that the alternatives who got a game at right back and are no longer at the club for a reason.
Ralston got one last week at Tynecastle to get Celtic back into a game we should have won and repeated the trick yesterday, although by the time he got his second Premiership goal of the season (more than Edouard, Griffiths and Ajeti combined) Dundee were a beaten force. It was only the intervention of team-mate Liel Abada who prevented Ralston adding his own second yesterday.
Afterwards Ralston even got to speak to the media, usually he’s under the radar and we don’t hear too much from him. “It was really good, it was a great feeling for all the boys. We’ve put a lot of work in over the pre-season, on the manager’s ideas of how he wants us to play. So it was great to see everything coming together today. Tony stated, as reported by Daily Record. “The boys up front were brilliant and we were solid as a defensive unit. We were all really happy with the performance. Everything clicked in to place. We’ve been working hard in training and analysing a lot on how we want to play. It’s just nice to go in to a game and put it all together.
“It’s important we kick on now and keep playing the right way with intent, as the results will come. The clean sheet was pleasing. We defended well as a back four and goalkeeper, but also as a team. The pressing front to back as a unit was brilliant and it’s important we keep that going in the future,” Ralston added.
And he was clearly delighted with his latest goal, especially as it came from his left foot. “I never thought my left foot was much use! I’m delighted to get another goal. The most important thing is contributing to the team.
“Hopefully I can continue. I’ve just had to stay focused when I’ve been out of the team and work hard behind the scenes to be as fit as possible, so when the chance came I was able to take it.
“I kept myself right and fortunately I have had the opportunity this season. I’m enjoying playing and being in the team. I just need to make sure I keep the right mindset in each game and in training. It’s a new role for me to play this way but I’m really enjoying it. It’s a free role to get inside and get on the ball and be involved.
“I’m just trying to perform the best I can and doing what the manager is telling me to do.”
Like everyone else Ralston wanted to talk about hat-trick hero Kyogo Furuhashi. “He’s a great guy. He doesn’t speak much English but he really makes an effort with all the boys and gets on with everyone. He was terrific. I was delighted for him to get his hat trick. His movement and finishing was absolutely outstanding. He was a big help for the boys up there. He’s set a high bar but he’s obviously a top talent. We’re delighted to bring him in and we all saw today what he’ll bring to the team.”
Next up for Celtic and Tony Ralston is the return leg of the Europa League Qualifier on Thursday night with the Hoops well in control of the tie achieving a 4-2 first leg victory in the Czech Republic last week. “It’s another big game on Thursday so it’s important to go in with the right mindset and get the job done.”