Ange Postecoglou explains why he's handed Matt O'Riley his Celtic debut at Tynecastle

By Euan Davidson

January 26, 2022

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou has explained why he’s handed a debut to former England youth international Matt O’Riley against Hearts.

Though the Hoops have been hamstrung by a range of injury and international call-up issues, O’Riley is a player that’s caught the imagination of supporters. A creative, pressing midfield no.8, the ex-MK Dons man was wanted by a range of top clubs.

Celtic nabbed him though, and he’s made a quick start to life at the club.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Ahead of the Hearts game, Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou told BBC Sportsound about his choice, and the excitement he has to watch O’Riley make his debut.

He said [BBC Radio Scotland 19:28]: “We sign those players [like O’Riley] because we believe that they’re not just here for the short term.

“We believe we can build a successful team around these types of players, guys in their early 20s. We’ve signed quite a few of them.

“But there’s no plan for their debuts, they can happen in the first week like Matt, or they might have to wait a while like others. He’ll acquit himself well, the beauty of it is he has been playing, so he’s fit. He’s been training with us.

“I’m sure he’s excited, a little bit nervous, but looking forward to seeing him out there.”

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Celtic boss Postecoglou hands O’Riley firey Hearts debut

Quite the introduction for Matt O’Riley. Tynecastle is one of the more intimidating atmospheres in the Scottish top-flight, and Celtic v Hearts fixtures are often bruising affairs.

O’Riley, though, didn’t seemed overwhelmed by his surroundings. And he fit in just fine in a frenetic start between the two teams.

Jota was Celtic’s main threat, as the Bhoys looked to attack on the left-hand side. The Portuguese winger tested ex-Celt Craig Gordon, forcing the Scotland goalie into a smart, low save. O’Riley got involved, making key passes, and setting up James Forrest for a shooting opportunity. Unfortunately, it was one the winger didn’t take advantage of.

Photo by John Cripps/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

O’Riley was taking corners for Celtic, and his deliveries weren’t half bad. But it was his midfield partner who stole focus, with an absolute pile-driver from about 30 yards out. Craig Gordon might’ve done better, but it was an absolutely furious strike from last Monday’s Man of the Match.

If the first half had anything, it was pace. O’Riley, very much part of proceedings, looked surprisingly comfortable on the first half of his debut, gelling well at times with Hatate and Bitton. Then, it got even better; O’Riley went wide, found a Hatate pass, and crossed it in perfectly for Giorgos Giakoumakis. 2-0.

Impressive stuff thus far; it’s another big 45 minutes to come for Matt O’Riley and Celtic against a Hearts side buoyed by a raucous atmosphere.

Read more: Celtic team vs Hearts confirmed, big debut, TV details, fans react