The beard ages him, but Anthony Ralston will not be 23 until later this month. He was at Celtic throughout last season, but despite Jeremie Frimpong and Hatem Abd Elhamed departing in January and Jonjoe Kenny not enjoying great form, Kristoffer Ajer was moved to right back with Anthony missing out. He played only once, a 0-0 home draw to Livingston in January. The inference was clear: Anthony was fifth choice right back in an awful Celtic team.
Prior to that he had made 10 starts for Celtic, the first coming in 2017. 19 months younger than Kieran Tierney, comparisons were made – I remember writing that while we clearly did not have the wherewithal to develop a striker, we were able to produce full backs with bags of potential.
He was first choice on loan at St Johnstone until football was curtailed in March last year, then a ponderous year on the sidelines. Players do not always make it, I assumed Anthony’s progress went into reverse.
What he needs most now is games. The injury to Greg Taylor that moved Josip Juranovic left provided an opportunity for Anthony to compete at a level he seldom experienced before. This has brought some impressive goals, crosses and assists that were so lacking from the right last season.
Whatever your objectives for Celtic, developing players has to be part of the mix. We need to be able to develop the potential Anthony Ralston broke through with into someone who can spend years in the first team, or be sold on for decent compensation.
Fair play to the lad for turning his career around in the space of three months and to Ange for giving him the platform. Neil will have his own version of events about last season’s absence. This stuff is always complicated, anyone who thinks different has never been there. Whatever the reason, it now looks shaky.