"Wow"; Celtic fan favourite Matt O'Riley on the Paradise moment that stunned him

By Euan Davidson

March 8, 2022

For those not ingratiated in the life of a Celtic fan, it’s got to be an incredible moment seeing Paradise packed for the first time; and Matt O’Riley is no exception.

A bona fide hit since arriving at Celtic, O’Riley has impressed with his vision, set-pieces and creativity. When the absence of David Turnbull was starting to bite, O’Riley admirably stepped up, a bargain £1.5m signing from MK Dons.

In a Twitter Q&A, O’Riley was asked a range of questions; who’s his favourite player, what music he listens to. But nothing was quite as poignant as when he described walking out to a full Celtic Park.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

O’Riley told Celtic fans on Twitter [Celtic FC]: “I thought it was really cool to be part of such a historic stadium and club in the first place.

“I saw the stadium empty when I signed. So when it was full I thought wow, this is the real deal. This is why I play football.”

That “wow” moment came in his first home appearance, a 90-minute outing against Dundee United in the Scottish Premiership. Memorably, the game was won very late on by Liel Abada, sparking scenes of utter joy at a rammed Paradise.

He’s gone on to score once and lay on two assists in just 11 outings for Celtic thus far. Already, he’s already proven himself as a star addition to Ange’s enterprising Celtic squad.

The Celtic support shines again as Ange’s men move one step closer to glory

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The Celtic support shines again as Ange’s men move one step closer to glory
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Matt O’Riley tries to put Celtic Park experience into words

It’s actually really interesting hearing a new player talk about this. Of course, footballers from all and sundry have complimented the Paradise atmosphere, almost to the point of cliché.

If you know how special it is, that says enough.

As a stadium though, it’s got to be quite intimidating – in a good way – for new players to arrive at. Even when it’s empty, it’s an objectively impressive building. You can feel the history there, see just how high up the seats go, and get a sense of what it’s like when it’s full.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Then when it is full… playing in front of the Celtic Park crowd has to be a life-changing experience. Let alone getting to do it every other week, wearing the Hoops. It’s what so many of us dream about.

For O’Riley, it’s the kind of thing that drives him, clearly. Nothing says you’ve made it as a footballer quite in the same way as playing to a sell-out Celtic Park. And while you could his comments to the vast list of players speaking in grand terms about Paradise, O’Riley seems articulate enough to avoid the kind of Celtic clichés that get banded about.

With no (maybe some) disrespect to the EFL League One, it’s got to be quite a surreal feeling going from Crewe and Cheltenham to Celtic Park. But if there’s one person focused on staying at this level, even with an eye on international honours, it’s Matt O’Riley.

Read more: Controversial Dundee United man Butcher’s link to Celtic star Hoops are “lucky to have”