“I wish Ali all the best with his health and his recovery,” Ralston’s message to Johnston

Anthony Ralston was absolutely outstanding at Hampden on Sunday when we came on to replace the injured Alistair Johnston against theRangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final. In that second half the latest Ibrox club threw everything they had at the Celtic defence in a desperate attempt to save their season from ending on that Beautiful Sunday and there’s no doubt that Ralston’s contribution to the Celtic cause was significant alongside the other defensive heroes in the defence – Man of the Match Cameron Carter-Vickers, Carl Starfelt, Greg Taylor and of course the Canadian international right back himself.

Anthony Ralston of Celtic receives medical treatment during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic FC and Livingston FC at on December 21, 2022. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

When Josip Juranovic came back from the World Cup carrying a knock, Ralston was the only fit and available right back at the club. Alistair Johnston had been signed and had arrived in Glasgow to work with the squad but was unable to play until the January transfer window opened.

Ralston though picked up an injury in a match at Celtic Park against Livingston and that meant that Johnston would be, unlike the other January signings, thrown in at the deep-end at Ibrox on 2 January. The new Bhoy of course performed really well on his Celtic debut and has been a fixture in the Celtic side ever since, with Ralston having to take time to recover from that injury then picking up another after being called up as an emergency replacement for Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad.

Had Ralston not picked up that knock against Livingston there’s every chance that Johnston would have been gradually introduced to the Celtic team in a similar fashion to Yuki Kobayashi, Tomoki Iwata and Hyeongyu Oh. That thought is football and instead Anthony Ralston got himself fit and was ready to play his part when called upon.

“That’s the mindset of all the players in the squad,” Ralston said, as reported by The Herald. “It’s a big squad and it’s important to know your role when you could be called on at any point.

“My job wasn’t to go on and do anything for myself, it was for the team. That’s drummed right through us. Even the boys that weren’t there on Sunday, they train every day to make us the best we can be.

“I wish Ali all the best with his health and his recovery. We’re not quite sure what it is but the main thing is that he’s all right. If I need to step in and do my job, then I’ll step in and do my job,” Anthony Ralston said.

He added: “We’ve no other choice. From day one, the gaffer’s message has been that we train every day like we are going to play, and that’s what we all do. That’s the reason why boys – on Sunday it was not just myself, but Sead Hakšabanović and Aaron Mooy – can come off the bench and do a job, because we train every day at the highest level.

“We’re in it as a team. Success comes as a team. I thought the boys were terrific overall on Sunday and deserved the win,” he stated. “Of course, you want to be playing as much as possible, but the most important thing is the end goal and that end goal is achieved by having a squad, not individuals. It’s not about what you want personally, it’s about a squad of boys that want to achieve special things. That’s what we want to do and that’s how we work.

“Me and Josip had a great relationship. If he was in, I would support him and the same the other way round. It’s the same with me and Ali. We’ve got a great relationship as well. I wish him all the best with his health and his recovery and I hope it’s nothing too serious.”

20th November 2021; Hampden Park,  Scottish League Cup semi-final, Celtic versus St Johnstone; Anthony Ralston and Josip Juranovic of Celtic party with the fans after the final whistle

Ralston of course was the first goalscorer in a competitive game played under Ange Postecoglou, in that controversial 2-1 defeat at Tynecastle on the opening day of last season. And he’ll be back at Tynecastle this Sunday as Celtic look to wrap up the title. Looking back at the splendid goal, Ralston reckons it was something of a Hail Mary strike.

Anthony Ralston at Tynecastle. Photo Jane Barlow

“That feels like a lifetime ago now. I closed my eyes and hoped for the best with my left foot! We know it’s a tough place to go, but it’s about us and we’ll go into training and get our heads down. Sunday is done, it’s about next weekend now. We go to work and we aim to go there and win.

“It’s one of our goals to win the title and we’re going to try our best to do that. It starts with the training pitch. We’ll go and implement our things in training to then go and execute it at the weekend.

Anthony Ralston. Photo: Jane Barlow

With such a commanding lead in the Scottish Premiership and the League Cup already in the trophy cabinet at Celtic Park, there is a widespread belief that having knocked out theRangers in the Scottish Cup Final to win a place in the final against Championship side Inverness Caley Thistle, the Treble is very much on. That’s not something that Ralston will entertain at this stage in the season.

“We don’t think about it and we haven’t been thinking about it. We want to compete in everything we are in – Europe as well – and in everything we do. We strive to do that as a squad.

“Take it a day at a time like we have been from day one and we’ll hopefully achieve our end goal. Either way, you just want to win. It’s how we win it as well. We want to be able to burst through the finish. It’s not a case of letting up at all,”  Anthony Ralston said. “Our aim is to play our football. If we can play our football, I’m sure everything will take care of itself.”

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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