Celtic head to Tynecastle tonight for what promises to be one of the toughest away trips the club will face this season, and they’ll have to do so without key players due to injury and international call-ups.
Perhaps then yesterday the club were preparing us all for Matt O’Riley receiving a debut baptism of fire at Tynecastle under the lights, when they put Celtic’s new signing in front of the cameras at yesterday’s press conference.
With the midfield area hit the hardest due to Callum McGregor’s significant facial injury and Yosuke Ideguchi’s worse than initially feared ankle injury, following a bruising encounter against Alloa Athletic in the Scottish Cup at the weekend, a game that has resulted in Ange Postecoglou calling for greater protection from officials for his players, it may be the loss of those injured colleagues that will allow Matt O’Riley to make his debut earlier than may have been ideal.
Speaking at Yesterday’s press conference recognised the circumstances, with teammates injured was not the ideal way to come into the team but admits he’s ready to dig in and help out.
“It’s not nice to see team-mates get injured but yeah it does potentially open doors for people like myself. If it happens it happens. I’ll do my utmost to be ready and help the team. I feel ready to go physically and mentally.
I feel ready, yeah. If I’m called upon then I’m ready yeah. I’ve played enough games this season so I’m in a good place physically and I’ve had a few days of training with the boys so if I’m called upon I’ll be ready.”
And asked whether the manager has given any indication he might play against Hearts tonight, O’Riley admits there has been no direct communication with Ange Postecoglou but the coaching staff have advised him to be prepared.
“I haven’t had that direct conversation with him but I’ve been told by members of staff to be ready if needed so that’s what I’m doing. I’m training well and preparing the right way as I always do.”
It would be a big ask for Matt O’Riley to debut in the traditionally unwelcoming atmosphere of Tynecastle but O’Riley doesn’t seem fazed, instead he says he’s genuinely excited by the prospect of the expected hostility –
“It’s a new challenge. We’re a massive club so all the other teams are going to really want to beat us. Against Hearts, the atmosphere is going to be hostile. It’s just stuff like that I’m really looking forward to. I got a taste of it in England but with a club this size I’m probably going to get it even more. So that’s the things I’m most excited about – the atmosphere, the fans, those kinds of things.”
It’s likely to be a case on needs must for Matt O’Riley this evening, with injuries mounting up, a likely midfield three of Nir Bitton in the holding midfield role with Reo Hatate partnering O’Riley in the two No8 positions, does seem like the logical answer to Ange Postecoglou’s selection headache.
With Matt O’Riley having no concern over his match sharpness, having been an ever present for previous club MK Dons this season, there is every chance we’ll see our new signing tonight, and that just adds to the anticipation of a match that could have a huge bearing on this season’s title race.