O’Riley has managed to keep himself fit and available throughout the entire season and played an important, versatile role as an anchoring midfield stand-in for the injured Callum McGregor before the World Cup. He was a firm fixture in the heart of the midfield week-to-week.
However, he hasn’t managed to nail down a spot as a consistent starter so far in 2023, with just four selections in Postecoglou’s starting eleven since the turn of the year. Nonetheless, the Celtic manager is buoyant about his future and has signalled O’Riley is looking sharp in training at Lennoxtown right now.
Ange Postecoglou has high hopes for Matt O’Riley’s future
Speaking in a media conference today, Postecoglou said [Celtic YouTube]: “Matty came in last January, and with no disrespect, he came from playing in League One, which was his first real experience at senior football into an environment where he’s playing in front of 60,000 people, playing Champions League football and taking some real responsibility as a young man. I think he’s he’s been brilliant and he’s consistently trying to improve.
“Again, he’s one of these guys who wants to get the absolute maximum out of his career, so there isn’t a day that goes by that he isn’t looking to better himself on and off the field. And you know, he continues to make strides in the areas he needs to. He’s played an awful lot of football for us since he came. I think it would be very few games that he hasn’t actually played or missed.
“I think he’s been looking really strong in training this last sort of four or five weeks. They haven’t had the midweek games and you can see that now. You know when he’s starting or coming on that he’s making real impacts on games. I’m sure he’s got a strong finish, but he’s got so much more in him to get to other levels. It’s really his second full year as a senior professional and there’s a lot more to come from him.”
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As Postecoglou alludes to, even when O’Riley isn’t starting he has been used as a regular substitute. He’s been a key force in the second half of Celtic matches to drive on the midfield across an entire 90 minutes. The midfielder has scored twice in his last four games, which is significant considering he didn’t net once prior to that this season with much more match exposure.
He’s a player who, despite not starting as frequently as he did earlier in the season, remains a key part of Postecoglou’s plans moving forward. I’m sure we’ll see more signs of that towards the end of the campaign. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him start Wednesday night’s clash at home to Hearts, to begin with.