Celtic defender Anthony Ralston has confessed he thought his Parkhead career was over in the summer after spending much of his career on the fringes of the first team.
However, the arrival of Hoops manager Ange Postecoglou has brought out the best in the right-back, with his performances over the past six months earning him a new bumper contract through to 2025 and a first Scotland cap.
The Australian was tasked with a major squad rebuild in July after last season’s disastrous campaign saw their ten-in-a-row bid ended by Rangers.
Ralston admitted to being unsure if he had a long-term future with his boyhood club but the 23-year-old grasped his opportunity in pre-season and is enjoying a new lease of life at Parkhead, becoming an important member of Postecoglou’s new-look side.
Speaking in an interview with Sky Sports, Ralston said: “It was hard last season, when you’re not playing and not involved.
“I spent a lot of time on the training pitch and put my work in there. When you’re not playing it’s not easy at times, but you need to keep yourself right.
“It was natural for me to think it (Celtic career) was coming to an end.
“I’ve been here since the age of eight coming through all the years at the academy and all the ups and downs, but when I got my opportunity, I wasn’t going to let it go.
“I’m glad it came around the way it did. Now I’ve taken the opportunity and I just want to keep doing that.
“When you see the other side of it, and now you’re on this side, you never want to go back. I’m delighted with how it’s gone so far.
“Now it’s important to keep myself right, keep my head down and keep working.”
Ralston, who has scored five times so far including an injury-time against Ross County earlier this month, has been adapting well to the inverted full-back system Postecoglou has implemented.
The style allows him to advance further up the pitch as often as possible but also requires significant energy to drop back against opposition teams when they counter.
Ralston admitted: “The gaffer, since he’s come in, has been great. Not just with me but all the boys in terms of being very clear on how he wants us to play.
“On a personal note, it’s obviously a new way of playing the position. It’s a way of playing I’ve never seen or done before, but he has given very clear instructions and that made it a lot easier for me in terms of learning that role.
“I’m loving the style now. At the start it was new and I had to learn it, but it was something we worked on every day in training.
“It just goes back to the clear messages the gaffer gives. He instilled that confidence and belief that you can go and do it.
“From an attacking point of view, it gives us a massive advantage. We have a strong back four and a strong central midfield to help out with the defensive side.”
It comes after Ralston’s performance during the goalless draw against St Mirren pre-Christmas was criticised by Celtic icon Frank McAvennie, who insisted it was like “he’d come off a building site.”