ANTHONY RALSTON has earned the new contract he was awarded this week at Celtic through sheer hard graft, resilience, and of course, his talents as a footballer. But he acknowledges that the fact the club runs through his veins can’t have hurt his cause either.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is on record as saying he wants to maintain a Scottish core to his squad, players who know the club inside out, and more importantly, can quickly impress the demands that come with playing for Celtic upon any new arrivals.

Even a draw away to Motherwell today, for instance, would be treated like a disaster of sorts, and the sooner that dawns on those coming in from the outside who are not used to operating in such a pressurised environment, the better their chance of being successful here on both an individual and collective level.

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Being a Scot – and even better, as in Ralston’s case, a lifelong fan of the club – isn’t enough, but allied to hard work and ability, it can be a huge asset for any Celtic player.

“Being here is extra special for me,” Ralston said.

“I’m a Celtic fan, I come from a Celtic family. I grew up around Celtic being the main thing. I used to go to all the games with my uncle and ball-boyed all the games after that.

“It’s crazy to think that way now, being a player, but looking back they’re great memories and it’s more special being here as a Celtic fan.

“You also need to put that to one side as much as you can, do the best for the team and play as a footballer, which I think I do ok.

“For the boys coming in from different backgrounds they have to quickly understand what it’s like here, and the demands and the success that the club wants.

“They can see that through the likes of myself, Callum (McGregor), Greg (Taylor) and others. But the ones who have come in have quickly adapted to those demands and what’s required to play at a club like Celtic. So, we’re in a good place.

“I do my best to speak to the new boys and welcome them to the club. If players are coming here and moving away from their families, or even if their families are making the move with them, it can be difficult.

“You just try to help them settle in as best as possible as someone from around here who has got his family here. So myself, Callum and Greg have all tried to help them as much as we can.

“They very quickly understand it and that it wouldn’t be acceptable for [settling for draws] to be the case. That’s the demands and that’s the standards. That’s what you need to accept when you’re at a club like Celtic.

“But they very quickly get to grips with it and get on board with it.”

Back in May of 2021, few would have predicted that Ralston would have seen out the summer at Celtic, let alone the next six years, with his new contract extension taking him through to 2027.

The turnaround in his fortunes can be variously credited to Ange Postecoglou for showing faith in him through to daughter Mila for providing his inspiration, but he too must take his share of praise for resurrecting his Celtic career from a point where even he thought it was over.

“As everyone has in their career, there have been difficult moments,” he said.

“When I was slightly younger there was a period of time when I did think things weren’t going the way I’d have wanted here. But I never gave up the fight and the people I’ve had around me - my family - and my biggest motivation being my little girl coming along.

“There are life things that happen and circumstances that give you that extra motivation and fight.

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"At that time, my wee girl coming around was the perfect thing and the catalyst to keep my fighting every day and to push and take the opportunities when they came and then Ange coming in was the perfect timing as well.

“Now I’m here and signed another four years, it’s definitely a proud moment. I look back at those times then and it was worth the fight so I’m delighted.

“It’s amazing. It’s a proud moment for myself and family and everyone involved. It’s good to try and take these moments in because they don’t come around all the time.

“But I’ve enjoyed it, taken it and now it’s about getting the head down every day working towards doing my best for the team and getting success.”

To have the endorsement of not only Postecoglou, but now of Rodgers upon his return to the club, means a lot to Ralston. He may have come in for some stick from certain quarters over the course of his career, but if two managers of such calibre hold him in such high esteem, he figures he must be doing something right.

“It definitely gives me a great deal of confidence,” he said.

“It makes you feel good that the same opinion is there as well with our gaffer now, so that just spurs you on.

“It’s finished now, you’ve signed a deal, so now you push on, play games, work hard in training, outside of football keep everything right, progress and aim for the next reward, and that’s what I aim to do.

“I’m glad that I’ve got that backing, and it gives you great confidence to know that you’re wanted, that’s a good thing to have as a player.

“I need to keep working hard every day for the opportunities to come, which I am sure they will, but it’s down to the work I put in on a daily basis and that is what I’ll continue to do.”