Matt O'Riley: The Celtic phonecall that sold him on Angeball, being stopped in the street and what has shell shocked him

Matt O’Riley struck the winner in one of the most bitter derbies in English football days before heading north for a new career in Scotland.

Celtic's Matt O'Riley during a cinch Premiership match between Celtic and Rangers.
Celtic's Matt O'Riley during a cinch Premiership match between Celtic and Rangers.

But MK Dons v AFC Wimbledon is not Celtic v Rangers. It is not even Celtic v Dundee United.

He is adapting well to the upturn in intensity as well as the increase in fans.

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Around 7,500 fans watched him score the first half goal on his penultimate outing for MK Dons that sent AFC Wimbledon to defeat in a clash where the enmity extends far beyond the football pitch.

The same could be said of the Old Firm derby, though it is of course on a far larger scale. The 21-year-old has adapted superbly since signing for Ange Postecoglou. His quick feet and non-stop running fits well with the manager’s philosophy and he was one of the outstanding performers in Wednesday night’s 3-0 win over Rangers at Celtic Park in front of 60,000 home fans.

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“I think once you play in enough games you do get used to it,” reflected O’Riley. “Even before the Dundee United game I was pretty shell shocked just by the number of people in the stadium.

“Being able to play that game before the Rangers game probably helped me in terms of my own head space. I am someone who likes playing in front of a big crowd. It’s what I thrive on.

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“In that sense, I didn’t find it difficult.”

With Tom Rogic absent on international duty and David Turnbull injured, O’Riley has formed an impressive relationship with Reo Hatate in the middle of the park. Although Rogic is now back, the Australian might have to be content with a place on the bench at Fir Park against Motherwell tomorrow. Angeball is certainly suiting O'Riley.

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“I said before I left my previous club that I didn’t want to go somewhere where the style would potentially jeopardise the way I like to play,” said. “It was made clear that it would be the right style for me here when I spoke to the gaffer on the phone. He made it clear I would fit in well here. Hopefully that’s shown in the first few games.

“I really enjoy playing football this way. It’s how football should be played in my head. It’s nice to be a part of.”

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He is already relishing the sudden change in the way he is perceived. It wasn’t often that he was stopped for a photograph in the streets of Milton Keynes.

“When you want to go out for a walk in the city then you realise how passionate the fans are here,” he said. “It’s hard to walk around without getting stopped and asked for a photo which is honestly pretty amazing.

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"It shows how passionate everyone is here about the club and football in general. In that sense it’s been really enjoyable. I understand now what it’s like to represent a club like Celtic.

“It’s definitely been a change for me. It’s not something I’m used to but I’m trying to get used to it. I’m enjoying the change of lifestyle and the change of how I’m perceived in the football world.

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“You get a bit more recognition naturally when you are at a bigger club. In that sense I’ve had more publicity and attention from the media etc.

"When you can show your ability on a bigger stage you obviously get more credit for it.”

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