Celtic: Tom Rogic & Anthony Ralston have revived careers under Ange Postecoglou

By Thomas DuncanBBC Scotland
Tom Rogic & Anthony Ralston

Anthony Ralston was "enormous" as Celtic beat AZ Alkmaar. And could Tom Rogic be "the highlight of the season"?

Two players who, before a ball was kicked this term, were on the periphery. And yet two who have suddenly been thrust to the forefront and are having a significant influence on Ange Postecoglou's revitalised team.

After a sticky start under the Australian, Celtic have now won five games in a row, scoring 18 goals. They, like Rogic and Ralston, have been revitalised.

Wednesday's 2-0 Europa League play-off first leg win over their Dutch visitors evidenced as much, but how have two unlikely protagonists come to the fore?

'Ralston is getting better and better'

Ralston made only a single appearance last season - and that came when a rash of the squad were forced to self-isolate. The fact he began this campaign as Celtic's first-choice right-back was viewed as an indictment on the their sluggish recruitment.

A product of Celtic's academy, he spent the 2019-20 season on loan at St Johnstone without much fanfare, but Postecoglou's coaching now has seemingly transformed him into a contender for the Scotland national side.

Ralston netted a superb individual goal against Hearts, followed it up with another against Dundee, and was everywhere against AZ.

He was able to help out his centre-backs in possession by taking the ball and nipping past onrushing opponents, and showed good pace and awareness to produce crucial blocks, and even burst down the right to tee up Odsonne Edouard late on.

"Ralston just seems to be getting better and better," Scotland forward James McFadden said on Sportsound. "His confidence is growing."

Postecoglou concurred, but said Celtic need to help the 22-year-old out with more recruits.

"He was enormous defensively and with the ball. He has been all along," the Celtic boss said. "We need to support him and this group of players. We can't expect him to play at this intensity every game.

"It's not about bringing in people to replace others, it's about bringing in players who will compliment what we've got and create a strong squad."

Rogic impresses with and without ball

Rogic is a fan-favourite at Celtic Park, with his languid style belying his fantastic touch, control, and shooting.

However, he has faded in the last two campaigns after an injury-hit 2019-20 and an ineffective last term in a struggling side.

Against AZ, he produced a trademark dribble to waltz away from three defenders before delivering a brilliant cross for Kyogo Furuhashi to finish. It was a typical Rogic move, but the kind he has not produced recently.

Tom Rogic's touch map against AZ Alkmaar
Rogic's touch map against AZ Alkmaar

"I think this relationship between Rogic and Kyogo is going to be one of the highlights of the season if it keeps going," former Celtic goalkeeper Pat Bonner said on Sportsound.

But it wasn't just the touch around the box which the Australian stood out, but his work rate too. It is an aspect he is not normally known for, but one his manager demands as part of his high-tempo style.

Rogic won possession back four times for Celtic, and only two of his team-mates got involved in more duels. He was also dropped deeper at times to get the team moving forward, knitting their attacking play together.

"What impressing me most about Rogic isn't his passing, it's his reaction when he's losing the ball. He's going straight after the player in possession," Bonner remarked during the game. "If he can do that he becomes a key player in the team effort."

Top Stories

Around Scottish sport

Elsewhere on the BBC