Celtic ace 'confident' crucial injury return will help end 26-game barren spell

By Lewis Laird

December 19, 2022

Matt O’Riley is hopeful that the return of Callum McGregor can help relight his goal-scoring exploits after moving further forward in the midfield.

The Danish under-21 international has had an extremely busy season, missing just one of the Bhoys’ 24 domestic and European fixtures.

O’Riley has been a pivotal player for Ange Postecoglou this season and in 2022 as a whole as part of his midfield three.

Photo by Steven Markham/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The former Fulham man’s Parkhead career was kick-started earlier this year, playing his part in the Hoops trophy success as one of the more advanced midfielders in the side.

However, this season, O’Riley has had to adjust his role slightly, due to the injury absence of Callum McGregor, during October and November.

The Celtic number 33 played in the deep-lying role in some huge domestic games, helping the Hoops achieve maximum points, despite the skipper’s absence.

However, McGregor has since returned from injury, and the captain quickly slotted back into his regular role as part of the midfield.

This allowed O’Riley to move back into his move advanced role against Aberdeen, where his game is best suited to in Ange Postecoglou’s team.

The Hoops January signing has admitted he is delighted to see McGregor fit again from the team, but also from a personal point of view as he opened up on the new layers he has added to his game.

Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images for Bursty

Despite featuring in so many games this season, O’Riley is yet to score this season. But he is confident that he will open his account soon and bring a 26-game barren spell to an end, with his last competitive strike coming in a 4-1 win over Hearts in May.

He said [Sun Sport]: “Moving position has added a different layer to my game. It was a good experience for me, and I learned a lot of things.

“It means I should be in a good place for the rest of the season. With Cal fit again, I hope to play a bit further forward and get in more positions to get chances.

“Sometimes players go through phases where you don’t get goals. For me, everything seems to be going pretty well other than that.

“If I can add that layer, then I will be in a good place. I am confident the goals situation will change pretty soon for me.”

There has also been plenty of transfer speculation in recent months surrounding players in the Parkhead dressing room, such as O’Riley and Josip Juranovic.

The midfielder refused to get drawn into any speculation, as he insisted it is not something that players within the squad pay any attention to.

He continued: “We don’t speak about that when we are together.

“Everyone is focused on what our goal is as a team, and that is to win games and perform well for the club.

“There is always going to be noise externally. That is inevitable. It is something I’ve got more used to since I have been here.

“At the start, it was quite a lot for me to take in. But now I am more used to it. We are here to do a job for this club, and as long as none of us are distracted from that, we will be fine.”

O’Riley ready to kick-start goal-scoring exploits as he shuts down any talk of January speculation.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The success of players like O’Riley within this Celtic squad has led to inevitable transfer interest, with clubs from England reportedly watching the midfielder closely.

However, the ex-MK Dons man has quickly shut down any suggestion that transfer speculation is on his mind as he eyes up improvements for the second half of the campaign.

O’Riley can be forgiven for his lack of goalscoring exploits after brilliantly filling in for McGregor during the captain’s absence.

Now that he has moved back to his more advanced role, O’Riley will be looking to add to the four goals he scored last campaign.

He made the perfect start on the Bhoys’ return, scoring two goals in a 4-3 friendly defeat to French Ligue 1 side Stade Rennes.

It is now about bringing that across to competitive action, and like O’Riley, I am confident we will see the midfielder get off the mark very soon.

In other news, Greg Taylor left surprised by particular aspect of Celtic’s Pittodrie victory.