ANTHONY RALSTON made one start in Celtic’s season from hell as they toppled spectacularly from the pinnacle.
The 23-year-old right-back came in for the scoreless stalemate against Livingston at Parkhead before dropping off the radar again.
Ralston was largely ignored by Neil Lennon as the team limped its way through the minefield of disasters to complete the campaign without silverware for the first time in 11 years.
In January, the Irishman turned to Jonjoe Kenny in an attempt to solve his No.2 problem position, but the Everton defender failed to deliver and returned to his parent club at the end of a dismal time in Scotland.
The former England Under-21 international played in the unacceptable 1-0 loss to Ross County in Dingwall on February 21 that saw Lennon depart two days later. Ralston was a mere squad player as John Kennedy took over for the final 10 outings of a wretched season.
A year on, Ralston has won a Premiership title medal, lifted a Premier Sports League Cup honour and has made his full Scotland international debut and could get the call for the crucial World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine at Hampden on June 1.
It has been a meteoric rise for the defender since Lennon’s long-term successor, Ange Postecoglou, triggered a one-year option in his contract in the summer that led to an extension in terms that will keep him at the club until May 31 2025 at least.
Ralston looked back and said: “It’s been a terrific season for all of us, but it will be good to recharge and get us refuelled to go again for another long season. I’ve loved it.
“I think the potential for this team goes beyond where we’re at just now. We’ve got other levels to go. We’ll be looking to come back bigger and better and be stronger next season. That’s definitely our aim.
“From a personal level, it’s been an amazing season. I’m proud of some of the things I’ve achieved.
“But I never really look at myself, it’s always from a team perspective.
“If, though, I ever take time to myself, it’s obviously from where I was last season, not being involved as much, to where I am just now.
“I’ve worked so hard to get myself in this position, so I’m delighted. Even when things weren’t in my favour last season, I always kept my head down and worked just as hard.
“I was always focused on working hard in training, so when the chance came I was ready to take it. That was always my mindset. So I made sure that happened.
“Obviously, though, the gaffer’s come in and given me my opportunity which I am very thankful for.
“He believed in me, gave me that confidence to go in and play and now I’m in the current position.
“And, obviously, the way he’s implemented the style of play on a full-back. He’s coached me to learn the new role, so a lot of credit needs to go his way.
“It’s been new for me and I’ve just tried to embrace it, listen and learn.”
Ralston, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “He’s a terrific manager and I’ve managed to benefit from that and work hard to get myself to this position.
“I’m happy where I’m at. I guess this season I’ve certainly played more of a part and you do get that feeling you’ve really contributed to something special.
“For sure, it’s been immensely satisfying.”
When Croatia international Josip Juranovic arrived at Parkhead in a £2.5million switch from Legia Warsaw in August, it looked as though he had been bought to replace Ralston.
However, the double-act shared the responsibility throughout the successful journey to domestic domination for the tenth year in the past eleven.
Ralston added: “Me and Josip’s relationship is brilliant, both on and off the park.
“If Josip’s in and playing then I’m there fully supporting him through every game and I want the best for him.
“If I’m in and playing then he does the exact same for me. He encourages me.
“We speak through things, we’ve both been asked to play a different role. We’ve got a friendly relationship off the park. We get on very well.
“So, of course, it’s a healthy competitive nature. But at the same time we’re very much supporting each other to do the best for the team.”