Midfielder Finds Renewed Focus On And Off The Park

Celtic's Matt O'Riley

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We’re only two games into the new campaign yet Matt O’Riley has already stood out as a player who seems to be in a particularly good place under the new regime.

Two goals in two game would indicate that but there’s far more to the 22 year old O’Riley than what we see on the park.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s visit to Rugby Park where Celtic face Kilmarnock in the Viaplay League Cup he highlighted that he’s currently in a better place mentally than he perhaps was at times last season, and about the impact that can have on his game.

When asked what that comes down to the young midfielder was typically candid in his reply.

“I think it’s probably more of a mindful thing when I’m on the pitch.

If your heads somewhere else or if it’s thinking too much then naturally you won’t be as focused on the game and what you need to be in that given moment.

So when I’m in a place which is calm and clear and with the flow of things then I feel good, and I feel like that’s where I am at the moment.”

Not so long ago any such chat would have been seen as borderline taboo in the cut throat world of professional football and it’s healthy and refreshing to see a young athlete such as O’Riley be so open about an all too often unspoken side of the game.

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Playing professional football at any level comes with it’s own pressures and challenges and like many of his young team-mates O’Riley, who made the move North to Glasgow in January of last year having just turned 21, has had to adapt to what life at Celtic can be like for a young player.

Elaborating on the approach he takes he said,

“It’s something I work on quite relentlessly off the pitch, whether it’s meditation or a lot of mindful practices and I just try to constantly improve – whether it be as a person or as a footballer.”

A fit and healthy Matt O’Riley is a huge boost to Brendan Rodgers as he continues to assess the array of talent he has to choose from in the campaign ahead.

With David Turnbull and Reo Hatate scrapping it out for one of the three midfield berths currently available in Rodgers’ side (until Hatate’s untimely injury against Aberdeen) O’Riley and captain Callum McGregor have found themselves ever presents so far.

That may change of course and it’s a long season ahead, but the Danish Under 21 star is looking forward to the challenge.

“I always want to improve and I’d hope the team always want to improve as well. It should be an exciting season.

We’re in a good place right now and every game we’ll get better.”

With another three years of his current deal set to run you get the feeling the best is very much yet to come from Celtic’s latest midfield maestro!

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