TONY Ralston said last night he wouldn’t lose any sleep over the fact that Neymar blanked him when he went to shake his hand at the end of last night’s Champions League Group B opener, because he regards the most expensive player in the history of the sport as just another player.
The 18-year-old from Lanarkshire, a boyhood Celtic fan, said it was a dream come true to be handed a debut against Paris Saint-Germain’s much-vaunted strike force. While the 5-0 defeat was bittersweet, Ralston said that moments of the match would live on, not least a barnstorming second-half run which got the crowd off their feet, regardless of the sour end to his evening-long confrontation with the Brazilian superstar.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” he said of the incident. “I won’t’ dwell on that too much. If that is the case [that he refused to shake hands] and that is the way he wants to be, then fine. I don’t care. Like I said, everybody is different, so I won’t lose any sleep over it.
“It was a dream to be out there,” he said. “I’ve been a fan all my life and been a ball boy on these kind of nights. It was just incredible to be out there in front of those amazing fans. To experience that at the start was the best feeling in the world. Just hearing the Champions League music and the fans roaring is something I’ll never forget.
“It was a bit surreal. It’s a moment you just need to take in. Moments like that you never forget. They are the reasons you play football for. You always hope to get to this level.
“The manager let me know a week ago that I’d be playing. It allowed me to get it inside my head and prepare right. I didn’t feel fazed by it. This is where I want to play and at this level. I didn’t fear the likes of Neymar.
“I just knew I had to play my normal game. I prepared for Neymar the way I’d prepare for any normal game. I did exactly the same routine. It’s just another man on the pitch you are playing against. I don’t put him on a pedestal. You just deal with it. These games test you mentally and I felt all the boys bounced back in the second half and we went for it. No heads went down. We dealt with it well in the second half and kept going.”
While PSG showed their class to record the biggest ever win on a European night at Celtic Park, Scott Sinclair said he felt Celtic were unrecognisable from their usual selves with the way they started the match.
“It was disappointing,” he said. “The way we started the game in that opening 20 minutes wasn’t like us. We were not as aggressive as normal and that was reflective of the game.You look at the quality of the players we were up against, but we were loose on the ball and gave it away too many times. We got punished. I wouldn’t say we gave them too much respect. But I thought we could have got at them more.
“I was always going to be tough,” he added. “You need to learn from these games. They are top, world class players. I’m sure they can go all the way and win the competition.”