FORMER Celtic defender Malky Mackay got a close-up view of the qualities of Matt O’Riley for 64 minutes as the Hoops won 2-0 against his Ross County team in Dingwall in April.

The London-born Danish Under-21 international midfielder eased his way through the encounter before being replaced by Tom Rogic after the hour mark.

A first-half header from comeback Bhoy Kyogo Furuhashi, playing his first game in 2022 following his lengthy lay-off with a hamstring problem, had the visitors ahead and Filipe Jota sealed the points with a late strike from close range.

Mackay was clearly impressed by Ange Postecoglou’s bargain £1.5million buy from English third-tier outfit MK Dons in January and referred to the stylish performer as a gem as he plotted to nullify his threat before the teams lock horns in the Highlands tomorrow afternoon.

TREBLE YELL…Matt O’Riley and Reo Hatate congratulate Kyogo Furuhashi after the opening goal against Ross County in Dingwall in April.

The former Watford, Wigan and Cardiff City boss, who also had a spell as SFA performance director, said: “O’Riley is one of those diamonds you talk about finding.

“He is not someone who was on the radar of a lot of clubs in the way someone like Kyogo Furihashi would have been a sure bet if you knew the Asian market.

“O’Riley is exactly the sort we used to talk about, certainly at my first club Watford. We had very little money and it was a club teetering on the brink of administration, but we had a category one academy.

“My remit was to bring through prospects, bring in X-factor loan players – we had 10 loanees go on to become England internationals – and find lower league diamonds. They are not easy to get and right now even less so.”

ON THE BALL…Matt O’Riley shows his stylish qualities.

Mackay, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “All the world is now looking for the next Jamie Vardy. We almost got him – it was ourselves (Cardiff) and Leicester who bid for him.

“The fact Celtic have gone and found O’Riley is a fantastic piece of business.

“He’s a wonderful young player. I even enjoy the fact he’s decided to go and play for Denmark, that he’s confident enough to throw his hat in there.

“To go into that Celtic team as a young squad player, make the impact he’s made and show he thinks he should be playing every week is a great credit to him.

“It’s a credit to Ange Postecoglou and Celtic’s tentacles they get one like that, as opposed to paying big money for everybody.”

O’Riley lasted 82 minutes before being replaced by new Bhoy Aaron Mooy in the champions’ opening day 2-0 victory over Aberdeen at Parkhead last weekend following which the Greek-Australian gaffer made some valid comments about the team’s lack of a clinical finish after dominating possession for chunks of the encounter.

A BIG HAND…Matt O’Riley applauds the Celtic fans.

Mackay added: “In the first few weeks, a lot of teams are still settling down. At any club at the moment, you’re seeing new squads, people getting thrown in – and some will settle, others won’t.

“There’s a lot of that going on through the league and I don’t think that’s any different at Celtic. I can see why Ange was critical of his team after Aberdeen, just as I was critical of mine. I’m sure every manager was.

“As a manager, you are always looking for the next thing you can find in the team to make it better. There’s a relentless nature to trying to be better.

“People can say a team was terrific, but if you’re the manager you will be saying you need to do this or that better. It’s the nature of it.”

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