Celtic’s Matt O’Riley reveals what he needed for his head

Celtic’s Matt O’Riley runs to celebrates with the visiting support at Pittodrie after claiming his first goal for the club. His deflecred effort made it 2-0 in an ultimately tense encounter, eventually won 3-2 by Ange Postecoglou’s men after they were pegged back to 2-2. (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group)

He has featured in five straight games played for Ange Postecoglou’s men since his £1.5million switch from English’s Leage One side MK Dons, four of them as a starter. The 21-year-old playmaker has helped his new club to their first derby success in two years. He has been central to them hitting the front of the cinch Premiership pack as they have extended their unbeaten league run to 20 games, with O’Riley knowing only winning feelings in his time. And, on Wednesday, just for good measure, the player claimed his first goal in Celtic colours, in an edgy 3-2 success away at Aberdeen in which he also contributed an assist.

There has only been one feature missing from O’Riley’s supposed assimilation period: a less than impressive performance. Such has been the craft and excellence he has exhibited from the early minutes of his debut in the testing environment of Tynecastle, it feels like he has lived before in his current posting so at one is he with it. The Londoner, who has been bug-eyed over the sense of scale and spectacle of what he has already experienced in Scotland, confesses his early outings of him have presented challenges that would not necessarily be evident to outsiders, though.

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“I think everyone gets nervous, some people show it more than others,” O’Riley said. “The first game against Hearts I was a bit more nervous just because it was my first game for a new club but once the game starts I feel fine, I feel more than ready to contribute. The more games you play the more confident you feel, and I feel really good at the moment. I find it easier to play with better players. I know when they want the ball and when they are going to give me the ball, so in that sense I found it easier to adapt. Some of the opposition are obviously tougher than in League One at times, like Rangers for example. But when you have good players around you it makes it easy and off the pitch as well. Everyone is just genuinely really nice, which has made it really easy for me.”

O’Riley doesn’t deny that a first goal meant a weight off his mind. The player isn’t then likely to be untroubled that he made it 2-0 for Celtic early on at Pittodrie – four minutes after Jota netted from his sweeping cross that caused havoc in the home backline – with a snapshot that deflected wickedly off David Bates . “Obviously I am delighted,” he said. “I missed one chance against Dundee United [a week and a half ago], a really good one, which was playing at the back of mind a little bit. So I said before the game that I could do with scoring just for my own head and fortunately it happened. It was amazing, it was also in front of [the section] with our fans, which always makes it better. I am not too fussed about goals as long as we are winning, that’s the main thing for me. Of course it is nice to get contributions yourself. But three points is the main thing, honestly.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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