O’Riley is thriving with extra responsibility in MK Dons’ midfield
“Both physically and mentally, I’m in the best place I’ve ever been right now”
Matt O’Riley has played a huge part in MK Dons’ excellent start to the season thus far, scoring twice and adding two assists already. Playing in a deeper role than last season, the 20-year-old says he is playing the best football of his career.
Playing in a different role this season has brought out the best in Matt O’Riley.
The 20-year-old has grown in influence for MK Dons this term, helping anchor the midfield, seeing more of the ball whilst also given the freedom to add to attacks.
Already with two goals and two assists to his name, O’Riley has also skippered the side this season and his impressive performances in Liam Manning’s side have quickly cemented him as a vital part of the team which sits just a point off the top.
While he played further forward last term, in an attacking role alongside Scott Fraser, O’Riley’s admitted he wasn’t expecting to enjoy his deeper berth, but has thrived with the extra responsibility.
“I enjoy it - I didn't think I would,” he said. “I've got licence to move around. If I was just stuck there, protecting the back four, I don't think I'd enjoy it as much but the fact I'm allowed to get around the pitch and do my thing, it makes it more enjoyable.
“It's a slightly different role for me this season. I was playing a bit higher last season, and already I've got the same stats in terms of attacking so it's definitely a credit to the way we're playing. We always look dangerous going forwards. I'm happy to contribute that way but I'm also just happy that we're winning games.
“There is a lot of trust in me at the moment which is nice, I'm someone the others look to to get on the ball, which I like as well. Last season, I had to be a bit more patient to get on the ball, but now a lot of the play comes through me. I enjoy getting more touches of the ball, which is what you want as a midfielder, and to influence the game.”
Linked with a move to the Championship towards the end of the transfer window, O’Riley makes no secret of his desire to play at a level higher than League One. Following his departure from Fulham in the summer of 2020 though, he has established himself as a regular in the side since his move to Milton Keynes was confirmed in January.
Even though others may have their eyes on O’Riley, he says he is in the best place in his career at the moment.
He said: “Both physically and mentally, I'm in the best place I've ever been right now. From day one, I've felt really at home and I'm really happy to be enjoying my football and playing regularly.
“I have big goals, there would be no point in doing this if I didn’t. It’s important to aim as high as possible, and I want to play at as high a level as I can, but I’m here now and it’s not a bad level.
“Hopefully we can do something special this season.”