Celtic star Matt O’Riley on his biggest sporting inspirations outside of football as he reveals how they help his career

MATT O’RILEY has revealed that he uses Novak Djokovic and LeBron James as inspiration.

The Celtic star has used mental techniques to improve his performances.

O’Riley insists the tennis and basketball giants have helped his own careerCredit: Kenny Ramsay
Djokovic is considered one of the greatest tennis players of all timePhoto credit: Getty
James is another of O’Riley’s favoritesPhoto credit: Getty Images – Getty

Tennis star Djokovic and basketball legend James are two of the superstars he enjoys listening to for insight on how to handle big moments.

O’Riley said: “Novak Djokovic is someone I really enjoy hearing speak. He talks a lot about mindfulness.

“He’s lost so many match points but he always seems to look the same.

“I think it comes from how many times he’s been in these big situations. This is what top athletes are very good at.

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“LeBron James is another who is always very focused and stays as present as he can. If he doesn’t, it will distract him from what he needs to do.”

O’Riley admits there was a time when he meditated too much. Now he’s constantly on the lookout for those marginal gains that he hopes will lead him to greatness.

It’s been over a year since midfielder O’Riley settled in quickly at Celtic after joining from MK Dons.

And he admits the mind games helped him deal with the huge crowds.

There will be another big turnout at Celtic Park on Saturday when the Hoops take on St Mirren in the Scottish Cup.

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O’Riley said: “When I first started playing at Celtic and the fans were like 60,000 every week I wasn’t used to it.

“If you missed a pass, you’d hear the whole crowd shouting ‘Arrrggggh.’ You can feel the fear.

“I can’t control the fans. But when I look at it like, “Matt, all you can do is play the game,” I usually feel better. This helps.”

O’Riley, 22, added: “In the past I’ve had bad games and I beat myself up about it and took it to the next game. This worsens my performance and probably also my well-being.

“Greatness in terms of an athlete is being as consistent as possible with small improvements over the years.

“If you can do that, you will prepare yourself for a very good and exciting career. You can see the times when someone who might be very good gets off the hook.

“I got into meditation four or five years ago. If I say I’ll do something, I’ll just do it.

“But in the beginning I meditated too much. My brain was fried – it was hard. But I was new to it so it made me more aware and all the practice then helps me improve now.

“Now it depends on how I feel. I feel like I’m tuned into how I feel on the pitch now. You can still make a bad pass and let it sink in. But I don’t see it the way I used to.

“I don’t meditate every day. At some point I do a conscious breathing exercise. I always wonder why I feel the way I do.

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“I’m trying to change that mood while I was stuck in my thoughts a year ago. I would let them control me.

“Now I’m trying to look at things more soberly from a neutral perspective. It happens a lot on the pitch because I’m just less attached to a situation.

“Maybe we lose or I’m not playing well. But in the end I’ll have one of my better games because I’ll just see it when the moment is over. If I miss the chance, it’s over.

“Then it’s about the transition to the next one. I say it like I’m perfect at it, but there are times I still miss a shot and let it affect me.

“The good thing is I’m aware of that. Before letting it affect me for the rest of the game.

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“You’re never going to play well when that happens because you come from a point of fear as opposed to a point of opportunity.”

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