“God willing, Matt signs a new deal and he’s at Celtic for many years to come,” Peter Grant

Peter Grant reckons it’s hardly surprising to hear that Celtic want to extend Matt O’Riley’s stay in Glasgow’s East End, following a fantastic start to the newest campaign. The Danish midfielder has begun to really flourish since the appointment of Irishman, Brendan Rodgers, and there is only more to come from a player who is still relatively in his footballing infancy.

At just 22-years-old, O’Riley has managed to pack in a serious amount of footballing experience in his career to date and has managed to play in some massive games for the Hoops. Having had the pleasure to line-up for the Parkhead club in Glasgow Derby matches and also cup finals since he arrived in January of 2022, he’s added the UEFA Champions League group stages to that list too.

Matt O’Riley of Celtic controls the ball during the Celtic vs St Mirren Cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park on May 20, 2023 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

His latest performance in a Celtic shirt was one to remember as he helped his comrades to a crucial 1-0 victory over our arch-rivals at Ibrox which has left them sickened to the core. It’s business as usual for the Bhoys now as they have stretched to a four-point lead in the Scottish Premiership over theRangers and Matt and co. can now look forward to their European adventure kicking off next week in the Netherlands against Feyenoord. That will be a highly anticipated game and is just one of many tantalising fixtures which lie ahead for the club.

The midfielder’s former coach and mentor at Fulham, Peter Grant, has asserted his belief that O’Riley has all the tools needed to be a top-class operator in the middle of the park. Speaking to Daily Record, he said: “Matt has all of the irons at his disposal. In fact, he has every club in the bag and uses them fantastically well. Back at Fulham, I played him as the deepest one because I felt that’s where he had to get better. It was unfortunate that he had the back problem which kept him off the training field at times, but opponents could run off him, although you expect that as young players learning their trade.

: Matt O’Riley of Celtic is challenged by John Souttar of theRangers FC during the Cinch Premiership match between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox Stadium on May 13, 2023.Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“On the ball was never an issue, he has a wand of a left foot and the spell he had playing a lot of games at MK Dons before joining Celtic was brilliant for him. Even last year when Callum was out, people were saying he wasn’t scoring as many, but he was helping the team, ended up with many assists and was vital. There’s big responsibility. I recall the game against Leipzig when he went out to take a free-kick. The delivery was headed clear, he was just out of position as he had to take it and they scored. It’s wee things you learn and that’s why he’s become a much-much rounded player. I’d also play him on the right of a midfield three as he could open the game or reverse the ball to his right full-back.”

On his derby day heroics, the Celtic legend added: “I thought last Sunday against Rangers, what he did was brilliant and contributed immensely to Celtic winning. So many cut-outs at the edge of his own box. Great positional play as a midfielder. Not only did he intercept, his use of the ball was then impressive when he won it back. That stood out for me. Never mind his quality, it was a defensive midfield masterclass. Yet I’d also watched him the week before and, having scored in the first two games of the season, he could have had another three or four himself against St Johnstone.

O’Riley, McGregor and Taylor with the League Cup

“Matt kept getting into the right positions. Then set-up the goal against Rangers. So his all-round performance is excellent. He has grown and grown and is going to just keep getting better because, as I said, he has all those clubs. As a midfield player, you do all aspects. Of course, systems and set-ups have changed. But midfield traits should stay the same in that, if you don’t have the ball, get behind it. If you are attacking, time runs forward and support. Matt has that balance.”

Grant has also admitted he is not in the least bit surprised about the player’s form or that the club wish to tie him down on improved terms. Leeds United had a bid knocked back for his services before the closing of the window and no doubt many are watching on with interest at his development at Celtic Park. Grant said: “It’s always massive to keep your best players and the way to do it is by bringing good players in to play alongside them.

Celtic’s r Matt O’Riley shoots during the UEFA Champions League Group match between Celtic FC and Shakhtar Donetsk, at the Celtic Park, on October 25, 2022. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

“The attention and scrutiny you play under at Celtic is, apart from Manchester United, second to none and I keep telling him the adulation you get is very difficult to replicate. We know financially, other clubs can pay more down in England or elsewhere. We understand all of these things. People always want your best players, so to keep them, get good ones alongside them and be successful. They may well still want to go and that’s fine.

He said: “Matt is thoroughly enjoying his time at Celtic and that is when you play your best. There are so many benefits. He can still get picked for the national team, you can play in the Champions League. Matt has become one of the fans’ favourites players and his performances are worthy of that. He’s become a better all-round player. All of these things. Time may come when someone from the Premier League in England makes an offer and he thinks one day he might fancy a go at that, you never know.

Celtic FC’s Matt O’Riley and Sydney FC’s Jaiden Kucharski fight for the ball during the Sydney Super Cup football match between Celtic FC and Sydney FC at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney on November 17, 2022.

“I always say enjoy them while you have them. Make them feel like a king of the castle and, if you do that and reward them for their quality and efforts as best you can afford, that’s important. God willing, Matt signs a new deal and he’s at Celtic for many years to come.”

Paul Gillespie

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About Author

I'm a Garngad Bhoy through and through. My first ever Celtic game was a friendly against Italian side Parma at Celtic Park, in 2002. Currently a student of English Literature and Education at the University of Strathclyde for my sins. Favourite game would be a toss up between beating Manchester United with that Naka freekick, or the game against the Oldco when Hesselink scored in the dying seconds. I'm still convinced Cal Mac is wasted playing that far back.

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