A year on from losing out to England in the Toulon tournament semi-finals, Anthony Ralston is out to stop history repeating itself.
The Celtic right-back heads into Wednesday’s last-four showdown older and wiser – no longer the raw rookie that caught the eye last summer.
He’s out to put the experiences picked up over a testing campaign – with ups and downs – to good use.
From the highs of Champions League involvement a new long-term deal with the Hoops to the lows of injury and play-off defeat on loan at Dundee United, Ralston feels all the better for the good and the bad that’ come his way.
How do you look back on your last season?
It’s fair to say there have been ups and downs for me. I’ve lived my dream as a Celtic fan by playing for the first team. They’ve been unreal this season and I’m immensely proud to have been part of that. Then I got my knee injury and I had to deal with that. It was a serious one and having to have an operation was all new to me. Then there was going out on loan and enjoying game time at Dundee United, who were great with me. It’s been good to come away to Toulon and say that I’ve come through all of that. In terms of the injury, you hope it never happens but it’s about how you deal with the downsides in football, as well as enjoying the ups. It’s been a good season overall and certainly one to remember.
How much have you benefited from exposure to the Champions League with Celtic? Despite losing to PSG, you must have taken a lot from going up against such a star-studded team.
I always look back on it as a positive night on a personal level. It’s all about experienced and playing against that calibre of player is only going to give me confidence to go up against anyone. Obviously someone like Neymar is a very talented footballer – one of the best in the world. I still take great confidence from that night going into every game I play nw. Just having it in the back of my head, knowing I experienced it, is good for me. Even if the score didn’t go our way on the night, it’s still a good memory for me. I enjoyed the challenge of a game like that at Celtic Park. It’s what I grew up dreaming about as a kid. There were 60,000 fans there on a Champions League night and I’m honoured to say I was involved in it.
Playing against England in last year’s Toulon tournament must seem like a lifetime ago?
It’s crazy to think of the things that have happened since we last played England in this tournament a year ago. It’s been mental but unreal at the same time. I feel like I’ve grown as a player since I was last here. In a way it all started for me playing in Toulon. The mood in the camp is also good. There’s a confidence around the place and we’ve been lifted by reaching the semi-finals.
Do you feel better for all your experiences, good and bad, in the last few months?
I’m now in a place where I’m fit and can really push on with my career. I’m focusing on doing well here for my country because that plays a massive part too. Beating France last week is a result that will stick with me forever – just like beating Brazil here a year ago. If we were able to beat France, then the skit is the limit. We know we can have a really good go at this tournament. Like last year, people have asked questions of us but we’ve just gone out and done our job. Hopefully we can go one step better this year and get to the final. Then when I go back to Celtic I want to push on again and show that I’m capable of getting into the first team.
Watch the Semi-Final live on Free Sports UK. Free Sports UK is available on Sky (422), Freeview (95), Freesat (252), BT/TalkTalk (95) & online via the TVPlayer.
Ross Doohan (Celtic)
Robby McCrorie (Rangers)
Daniel Harvie (Aberdeen)
Jason Kerr (St Johnstone)
Chris Hamilton (Heart of Midlothian)
Ryan Porteous (Hibernian)
Anthony Ralston (Celtic)
Greg Taylor (Kilmarnock)
Iain Wilson (Kilmarnock)
Liam Burt (Rangers)
Allan Campbell (Motherwell)
Billy Gilmour (Chelsea)
Fraser Hornby (Everton)
Glenn Middleton (Rangers)
Harvey St Clair (Chelsea)
Elliot Watt (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Oliver Burke (West Bromwich Albion)
Michael Johnston (Celtic)
Craig Wighton (Dundee)
Scott Wright (Aberdeen)
Scotland 1, Togo 1, Stade de Lattre, Aubagne
Scotland 1, France 0, Stade D’Honneur, Salon
Scotland 2, South Korea 1, Stade Parsemain, Fos-Sur-Mer