“When it’s close it brings out that extra fire and drive in everyone,” Matt O’Riley

Matt O’Riley was nominated for PFA Scotland’s Player of the Year award and revealed his delight at being out forward for the accolade, whilst revealing everybody at Celtic Park is enjoying the thrill of the title race – particularly his manager…

Matt O’Riley celebrates scoring our third goal during the Scottish Cup Semi Final against Aberdeen and Hampden on April 20, 2024 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The Hoops managed to stay there points clear at the summit of Scottish football on Sunday, even after their rivals had cut them back after a 2-1 win earlier in the day against St Mirren.

However, Matt and his teammates showed they have the bottle for the title race yet again by grinding out another 2-1 win of their own against a dogged and determined Dundee side away from home too. It wasn’t a dazzling display of football from the Bhoys but at this stage of the game, all that matters is the points on the board week after week, until the curtain comes down at the end of next month.

With such a stellar campaign to date in which he has grabbed 14 goals and and a mammoth 16 assists, there is a potential role for the midfielder at Euro 2024 this summer after the domestic calendar finishes. Although the Dane has revealed he is not focussing on anything but bringing home that Scottish Premiership trophy and a Scottish Cup to go with it, in what would be a sweet, sensational Double. “I’m genuinely doing my best to try not to think about any of that other stuff,” he said via Scottish Sun.

“That’s why my performance has been in a good place for a while, because I don’t focus on any of it. The more noise you have in your head, the less it helps. And if I want to do the best job I can for Celtic I just need to focus on our targets. The Euros is a long way away and for me to hopefully get in the squad comes from me doing well here. So it’s a day at a time, focusing my attention on what I need to do here and not other stuff, basically.”

The man who received full international level recognition this year also insisted everybody at the club is up for the fight and is enjoying the thrill of the chase this time out. “You can tell he enjoys it (Brendan Rodgers). We get that feeling too. It’s fun when it’s close. I know what it’s like from a fans’ perspective, and I’d like it to be easy and 12 points clear. But when it’s close it brings out that extra fire and drive in everyone.”

He said: “It’s also not being too invested in the noise around that — it can add pressure to myself and the team. It’s about enjoying the ride and having fun. It’s also about not getting ahead of ourselves. I’m sure people are thinking about (the)Rangers, but that should be the last thing on our minds. We should be thinking about tomorrow, then the next day and the next. We lost to Hearts the last time at home so we need to be focused.”

On being shortlisted for the prestigious award, he was clearly over the moon and added. Last year the Danish international won his club’s Young Player of the Year and insisted that this is a whole different ball game this time out. He added: “It means a lot, especially when it comes from players you’re up against every week. I won Celtic’s young player award last season but this is another scale.”

Paul Gillespie

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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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