Matt O'Riley sets record straight on his position and being ready for Celtic action despite his high tally
There is no attempt from Matt O’Riley to skirt round the reality that the injury misfortunes endured by some of his new Celtic team-mates present him with a huge opportunity.
The 21-year-old midifleder, recruited on £1.5million deal from MK Dons last week, believes it is “only natural” for him to think that way, ahead of a possible debut against Hearts at Tynecastle. Any other attitude would be disingenuous in light of the serious facial knock suffered by Callum McGregor at the weekend having followed on from the hamstring problem that has sidelined David Turnbull long-term – and the fact these losses are coupled with Tom Rogic’s absence on Australian international duty.
While it might then lead to the presumption that O’Riley could be forced to be thrown in cold to a fraught fixture by Ange Postecoglou, the red-hot form he was in for his League One former employers can only disabuse of such a notion.
O’Riley made 30 appearances for MK Dons, the last of these mere 10 days ago. A backdrop that allows him to believe he can go forward in his new footballing home without any real easing-in period. Not that there could be such a luxury, with Celtic potentially facing 16 games inside the next seven weeks.
“That [last game for me] was Portsmouth away and that was a tough one as well, so in that sense I feel physically sharp,” said the Londoner. “Playing 30 games is quite a lot, so I think my body is ready for the amount of games coming up because we have a lot in the next period. We are going to need everybody to be at it. Injuries come, unfortunately, and while I certainly don’t want any team-mates to be injured, it does happen. When it does, someone like me has to be ready, so we will see what happens. But I feel ready to go, and if I am called upon I will do my best to be ready.”
With his bustle, vision and a range of passing that has allowed him to rack up seven goals and six assists, O’Riley is perceived as the midfield all-rounder. A player who could fill in for McGregor in the deep-lying role or – potentially alongside Reo Hatate – slot in for Rogic/Turnbull as one of the two playmakers that Postecoglou favours. Celtic recent arrival is honest about where he stands on whether it is the number six or number eight berth he would ideally want to cut his teeth in.
“I think I can do all of them, but I most enjoy the No 8 role because it involves a bit of everything,” he said. “Listen, if I am needed in the No 6 role a bit deeper, then I think I have the tools to do that as well. And that’s always handy to have because it gives me more options, and gives the manager more options as well. I think it’s a strength, but if I’m going to the one I enjoy most then it’s probably being an eight, box-to-box type of player. I like to get around the pitch and I’m happy to help out in both boxes.”
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