Hot days, a dry unwatered astro pitch but Celtic will still be putting on a show reckons Matt Riley

As we head to the Ayrshire coast once again to face Kilmarnock, we will face a familiar foe in the form of Derek McInnes. During his time with Aberdeen, McInnes came up against Celtic regularly and provided decent competition on many occasions if truth be told. Today will be no different now that he is in charge at Killie and the contest will be tough.

Derek McInnes manager of Kilmarnock during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between theRangers and Kilmarnock at Ibrox on August 6, 2022 (Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

The return to the plastic pitch is a sight that we could all do without and will no doubt be unwatered as the recently promoted outfit look to frustrate the Champions. One chap who has never had the pleasure of playing on the dry, worn artificial surface is Matt O’Riley. Matt arrived at Celtic Park in January of this year from MK Dons in England’s League One and he helped the side to a championship in his first few months in the job.

However, having never played against McInnes side in those first tentative months of his Hoops career, he will now have the chance to experience arguably the worst aspect to Scottish football; namely, artificial turf. Speaking at his media conference ahead of the game on Friday, Matt O’Riley said: “It’s a new ground and an astro-pitch, of course, so not ideal for the body, but we’ve got to get on with it like everybody else.

“And it’s obviously been hot these last few days, so it’s going to be dry and we’ll have to adjust to the conditions as well as we can, and that’s what we’ll do, like we always do. Our approach is always the same, and we can only control what we do at the end of the day. Ross County was really dry as well, so we had to adapt and we just have to move the ball as quickly as we can. It’s not going to be easy, but I think we’re capable of doing it so that’s what we’ll try to do.”

O’Riley reckons that the approach they adopted at Ibrox a couple of weeks back will remain in situ, despite them being in their own backyard this time around against one of the big two. He said: “I think especially playing on their own home conditions as well, it’s probably going to suit them more so and they obviously got some success against Rangers for large periods of the game.

“So in my opinion I don’t see them changing too much, but we’re going to be ready for whatever they do. We can only prepare for what we can do and whatever they bring we’ll try and be ready for.”

The midfielder is also aware of the benefits of having a full pre-season under his belt as opposed to coming into the group halfway through a campaign. Nevertheless, he feels he adapted to his role quickly under Ange Postecoglou and is relishing the opportunity. He added: “It helps a lot, when I came in January I had played a lot of football beforehand, but also football that was in quite a different structure to what I’m playing here, so I was happy that I adapted at the speed I did.

“But, in saying that, I feel that I’m in a much better position now than I was before, both physically and in terms of understanding my role. I feel very comfortable within the team. I’ve known the boys now for a long time so I feel more comfortable in terms of speaking with everyone very naturally.

“In that sense I think I’m in a good place and I feel like I’m at a higher level than I was before. So if I can keep making these small improvements then it’ll hopefully put me in a good place.”

Paul Gillespie

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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