Why Euro 2024 Nightmare Could be the Making of Anthony Ralston


CELTIC right-back Anthony Ralston has experienced a difficult summer. There’s no getting away from it. The Bellshill-born full-back was named in Scotland’s 26-man squad for Euro 2024, with boss Steve Clarke selecting him as his starting right-back for all three of their Group A matches.

Ralston and the rest of the starting XI were blown away by tournament hosts, Germany, in the Euro 2024 opener. They then threw away a one-goal lead against Switzerland, with Ralston making an inexplicable error leading to Xherdan Shaqiri’s exquisite solo goal. Despite the mistake, Clarke kept Ralston in his place for their winner-takes-all encounter with Hungary in their final group game. The Scottish backline defended well throughout but lacked the attacking guile to open up the Hungarians, who eventually picked off the Scots in the final minute of second half stoppage time.

Why Ralston has become the target of the vocal minority

In the aftermath of Scotland’s Euro 2024 failure, Ralston has become an easy target for the frustration of some Scotland fans. His error against Switzerland has been pinpointed as a crucial turning point for the country’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages. That’s despite skipper Andy Robertson defending Ralston. The Liverpool full back insisted Ralston recovered remarkably well from his error to impress in the second half of the Switzerland game.

Former Livingston defender Marvin Bartley has spoken out in defence of Ralston also, labelling those focusing their ire on Ralston as “lazy”. Bartley said on his X account that he felt Ralston “did well” against Hungary and sought to argue against those suggesting fellow Celt, James Forrest could replace him in an attack-minded right wing back role.

Even Ally McCoist, a Rangers legend, has spoken out in defence of Ralston. McCoist believes Ralston shouldn’t even have been given the opportunity to make the error against Switzerland, with a poor decision to pass to the defender, while the rest of the midfield gave him little to no options to pass the ball forward.

The main reason why Ralston is getting it in the neck from Scotland fans is the Tartan Army feel they could be in Switzerland’s shoes and appearing in the knockout stage. Before the tournament began, Scotland fans will have targeted second place in Group A, behind hosts Germany. However, the Swiss remained unbeaten in their three group games to comfortably qualify with five points. They remain one of the dark horses to win the tournament, with the bet365 Euro odds market for the next outright winner pricing Switzerland as 40/1 tenth favourites.

Could this summer’s adversity be the making of Ralston with the Hoops?

Ralston has struggled to nail down a regular place in Celtic’s starting XI in the last couple of seasons. He appeared 16 times in 2022/23 and just 13 times in 2023/24 for the Hoops, with boss Brendan Rodgers preferring Canadian Alistair Johnston. The 25-year-old played 32 times in the SPL last season, playing an integral part of Celtic’s title-winning backline. He’s also part of Canada’s 2024 Copa America squad, featuring in their recent fiery win over Peru.

Although Johnston has experienced being in the media glare performing for his national team, few players will have had to handle such scrutiny like Ralston. If he can shrug off this summer’s disappointments, Ralston will surely have developed the mental fortitude to handle wearing the Celtic jersey in the biggest domestic and European matches.

Last summer, Ralston committed his long-term future to the club by signing a new four-year contract. Having joined the Hoops as an eight-year-old back in 2007, Ralston has seen the highs and lows with Celtic – and now he’s witnessing the highs and lows as a member of the Scottish national team.

Rodgers has already confirmed that Ralston will feature more heavily in the Celtic backline next term. The Northern Irishman admitted Ralston was sacrificed for some of the 23/24 SPL season to get Johnston “up to speed” after an injury lay-off. Nevertheless, Rodgers has gone public in his praise for Ralston’s mentality, as well as his commitment to train at the same intensity as a matchday. It’s this drive and professionalism which helps to set the standards at big clubs.

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