Kyogo, Abada, Cal, Forrest, Hart and the eat, sleep, high-press, repeat nature of our game at the minute are all very robust reasons for Tim’s across the globe to be cheerful. They really are. It’s exciting and it’s successful – it’s pure Celtic actually.
But for me, it’s the Anthony Ralston show which is the real headline grabber of late. And long may it continue. Still only 22 years of age, Ralston has been the biggest surprise package thus far of the Postecoglou era. And given the fact that he was our first choice RB at the start of the season because he was, and still is, our only senior RB at the club, he is the personification of the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention. We have essentially unearthed a nugget of gold from what most referred to, ignorantly so, as unwanted brass. And I was one of the multitude of ignorant only a few weeks ago. Mea culpa.
Similar to this is the 180 degree change in performance and commitment shown from Ryan Christie from last season’s to this. If nothing else, it’s further evidence of how we often don’t know what we’ve got until a grizzly and supremely confident Greek by way of Melbourne comes in and effortlessly gets it out of them and reminds us.
But should we, the ever demanding and often too quick to judge Celtic fans, be so surprised at the performance of Ralston in particular?
After all, if there was one consistent narrative in relation to the arrival of Ange, it was that he was a guy who gets the absolute best out of his players. Regardless of whether it was a club or a national team in the Antipodean region or a mid table team from Japan who became a dominant force in their continent – they all vastly improved their style of play under Ange. It’s clear to see that he is a proper player’s manager. And the team are paying him back in kind with their gut busting performances which for some, comes in at nearly 30km of distance covered in a 7 day period.
I don’t buy into any of these ‘early days’ or ‘honeymoon period’ narratives of nonsense either that some Tim’s have succumbed to given their still daily diet of SMSM back pages. What we are witnessing is more than the initial bounce a team gets from the new guy effect. We are witnessing a paradigm shift within the entire gameplay culture of our team and it’s highly successful. In short, we now have a team of players who are giving their absolute all for a tactically astute manager who is a modernist of the game and has supreme confidence and faith in his own ability. And it is us, the fans, who will benefit from this the most, in time.
And oh, how we badly need it!
This is why Anthony Ralston, a squad player with an abundance of silverware but few actual game time minutes to his name, is now a marauding, confident and creative right back-come-playmaker-come-born again MOTM winner. And he has shined up his goalscoring boots too. He’s evidently always had the talent and he’s always been there but now, under Ange, he’s been given the opportunity and, most significant of all, he’s been given the backing from him too.
I’m sure I’m not alone in still wanting the club to buy an attacking RB who is fairly well established and not a project. Preferably one with at least an emerging international pedigree. Only earlier tonight (18/08/21) in Ange’s post match comments this very point was referred to by our straight talking no nonsense gaffer. But I sincerely hope that the quest for a new RB is now regarded as one which aims to add competition for the jersey rather than one which simply seeks to take the jersey from Ralston and is immediately handed to the newbie.
He has more than earned this jersey and, even in a culture where your only good as your last kick of the baw’, he undeniably deserves to be regarded as our 1st choice pick for RB when the new arrival gets here.
And this is on merit and talent, not some romanticised loyalty. Ralston deserves the current plaudits and he has shown tremendous character to make that jersey his own despite some sniggering and patronising comments from pundits and fans alike in the very early stages of our campaign.
Whoever our new RB signing will be in the coming weeks – and knowing Celtic as intimately as we all do, it will take weeks – he has a real fight on his hands if he really does want to be Celtic’s 1st choice RB. Sure, this is down to the graft and ability of Anthony Ralston but even moreso, it’s down to the awareness, the confidence and the unrivalled man management ability of Ange Postecoglou.
You know, there’s a certain amount of serendipity at play here when we consider that Ange wasn’t the board’s first choice for the gaffer role and yet, here he is, being extremely successful pretty much from the get-go. And arguably his biggest success thus far is the re-finding of Anthony Ralston who was never regarded as the team’s first choice either. A stunning symmetry and one which, hopefully, will long continue.