MATT O’RILEY admitted it had been a challenge, but ultimately “very enjoyable” as Celtic finished their two-game tour of Japan with a 1-0 win over Gamba Osaka.
The stylish midfielder came on as a second-half substitute as returning manager Brendan Rodgers rang the changes to make sure the players got crucial game time ahead of the Premiership kick-off a fortnight today.
There was even the opportunity to introduce Norwegian midfielder Odin Thiago Holm, signed last month, to the team as a second-half substitute.
The Hoops boss emphasised the need to get the team up to match fitness and that appears to the case as far as O’Riley, who played for over 100 minutes in the Far East, is concerned.
The Denmark Under-21 playmaker said: “It was tough with the conditions, not just in the weather, but the pitch was a lot heavier than the last game.
“It was a good test and both teams played good football and made it difficult for us.
“It’s good and it’s quite unique playing against other teams that have built their fitness, so that’s quite a challenge.
“Their fitness levels are already quite high and they are halfway through their season.
“From a structural point of view they have good cohesion and it was tough going, but it will really help us going into the season.
“Regardless of both teams having a lot of chances, we were very solid defensively and put our body on the line even in a pre-season game.”
Applauding the supporters who turned out to back the team, O’Riley, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “It’s really cool that we get this amount of fans worldwide and you can’t underestimate the size of our club. It really shows, especially on the other side of the world.
“We were on our team walk along the river and there was a ferry full of Celtic fans singing and you’re shocked to see it, but at the same time I’m not.”
The bargain £1.5million buy from English third-tier outfit MK Dons in January 2022 added: “I feel really good and we’re in a better place than we were in the last game where the scoreline was one we didn’t want, but it’s still early in pre-season.
“I’m very lucky to have had very good managers in a short space of time at a young age.
“The gaffer here is especially good at communicating and getting his point across in a concise way. For all of us, that makes it easier to transition onto the pitch.
“Being able to have this relationship where you can speak to him and learn new things constantly in an open environment is very enjoyable.”