As we head into international week – normally a nightmare, but welcome this time as it’s the only football we’ve got – one of the most eagerly anticipated things, for me, will be to see whether Tony Ralston plays for Scotland. I hope that he does.
It is hard for me to overstate my admiration for our right back.
He has earned every bit of praise he’s been given over the last 12 months, and he has earned all the rewards that have come his way. Utterly written off by the media, our previous manager and the vast, vast majority of the fans, Ralston was assumed to have no future at Celtic at all.
We played him because we had to. That was the common refrain. He was in the team because we had no other choice. He got up every morning and read that and heard it everywhere he turned.
All through the summer he read about who we were going to sign so that we no longer had to endure his presence in the squad.
Think on that.
That’s a type of pressure that would have crushed a less assured footballer.
Not only did it not, but he understood what the manager wanted of him and quickly made himself an indispensable part of the squad. His new contract was more than earned.
Goals and assists followed, some of them, such as the late winner at Ross County, absolutely crucial to the title race. His renaissance at Celtic has been extraordinary, and it was a matter of time before he was granted the respect of a place in the Scotland team.
Steve Clarke took his time on this one; in fact, his decision to delay it this long has been nearly inexplicable. But Ralston has been as patient in waiting for this chance as he was about getting into the Celtic team, and it’s another feather in his cap that he’s gotten it.
Not only has he earned the chance, but I expect him to seize it.
I expect Ralston to be a Scottish international regular for years to come. Once he gets into that spot I expect that he will make it his own. He has all the qualities – mentally, physically and otherwise – to justify it.
I have never seen such a complete turnaround. I expect that he will seal it when he pulls that Scotland shirt on.
It will take a special player to get take it from him.