Matt O'Riley is the classic example of a player who gambled on himself and seen his wager pay off handsomely. Having spent eight years in Fulham's academy, he flirted with the Cottagers first team until 2020. He then took the brave decision to walk away.

The midfielder declined a new three-year deal and took the seemingly inexplicable decision to sign for League One outfit Milton Keynes Dons in January 2021. Barely 12 months later, O'Riley was turning out against Real Madrid in the Champions League for Celtic.

The 22-year-old has come a long way in the space of two years since he chose to seek out regular first team football and then being shrewdly snapped up by Ange Postecoglou for just £1.5 million in the winter window of 2022.

READ MORE: Matt O'Riley's Carlsberg Celtic weekend is a positive sign

Under new manager Brendan Rodgers he has started the 2023/24 campaign with a bang and has six goals and seven assists in all competitions while he also chose to declare his international allegiance to Denmark - as he has a Danish mother - despite also being eligible to play for England and Norway.

O'Riley has already amassed four under-21 caps and has even been called up to the full Danish international squad. He has yet to make his debut appearance for Kasper Hjumland's 'A' team but one thing is for certain - a cap is most definitely in the post.

We've tracked down some of his former coaches to chart the rise and rise of a potential Scottish football superstar.

Matt O'Riley bossed the midfield in an under-16 game for England against Holland alongside Phil Foden and Jayden Sancho and the Dutch coach said it was the best under-16 performance he had witnessed in 20 years of working at international level.

Dan Micchice is currently the Player Development lead coach at Everton. Micchice was O'Riley's England under-16 coach from 2015 to 2016 where he kept some esteemed company in the Three Lions side. 

"I am delighted for Matt because he comes from a wonderful family. His mum and dad went everywhere to watch him. Russell Martin deserves a lot of credit for where Matt is now as he took him to MK Dons and gave him the platform to play regular first team football.  As we all know you can have potential but until somebody actually gives you that chance to play then you will never know or find out how good they really are.

"Matt was at a wonderful academy at Fulham and there were lots of young, talented players like Ryan Sessegnon at Craven Cottage back then. They were a very successful group in terms of tournaments and they were always there or thereabouts reaching semi-finals and finals. Even then at his age Matt had an excellent range of passing and he had fantastic game awareness and possessed brilliant vision to see a pass.

"When I had Matt at under-16 level with England these youngsters all have potential. Fulfilling that potential is another thing altogether. In our England group, he was alongside the likes of Jayden Sancho and Phil Foden and he more than held his own in that exalted company. I remember a game Matt played against Holland in France and he was absolutely exceptional. He was in the midfield alongside Oliver Skipp who is at Tottenham now as well as Callum Hudson-Odoi. Foden was on the right and Sancho was on the left and Matt controlled the game. At those age groups with England you want to see youngsters make the most of their talent and it is wonderful seeing the likes of Matt perform so well on that stage.

"He has a calmness about him and the way he wants to play the game and that's at his own pace. He likes to put his foot on the ball and slows it all down and has a real appreciation for retaining possession rather than force things. In British football, it can all be about tempo and intensity but Matt is a rather elegant young player. 

"It is always a disappointment when players leave the system. We worked hard with Matt and there are always a few you think are ones that got away. It is a real shame because Matt came through our system. He was torn between Denmark and England at under-15s. He played for England between u-16s and u-18s. Whatever environment Matt grew up in he was doing all the right things. He has made his choice in terms of who he wants to represent at international level and we have to respect that."

Celtic Way:

My father used to say to me if you don't have a first touch or a final pass then put your boots in the bin. Matt has both in abundance. He is also adding goals and assists to his arsenal. It is all of those attributes which will take Matt wherever he wants to go in his career.

Former Celtic and Scotland midfielder Peter Grant was O'Riley's coach for a spell at Fulham. He knew immediately that he was watching a precocious talent on the ball. However, Grant worked on O'Riley's off-the-ball game and joked that he became a 'Grim Reaper' figure to the Danish international.

"There were many talented boys around at that time and Matt and Moritz Jenz broke in and played a few games despite being younger. He was a determined young man who obviously trusted his talent and had a lovely left foot. There were a lot of things he had to learn. When I watch Matt playing for Celtic this season I think back to the conversations we had about his game back then. I now see him implementing a lot of that stuff - like how you position yourself and what areas to defend when you do not have the ball. 

"He was a very willing learner and he is an intelligent boy. You can see that in the way he plays. MK Dons was the making of him as he got a run of games there and that was the most important period in his development. He has been remarkable since he stepped foot inside Celtic Park. He even adapted to that deeper role in Callum McGregor's absence with no fuss whatsoever. Matt has been a revelation at Celtic really.

"I just look at the boy who I worked with at Fulham and I knew immediately that I was watching an excellent footballer. I don't know what happened at Fulham in his final days as he ended up training on his own.

"Matt always had the raw talent. He just needed the consistency of matches and I won't lie I did worry about him physically. When he was on the ball he was more like a quarterback or a kicker in American football and everything would go through him. He had all the attributes needed. Off the ball he just needed to work on his game awareness, midfield players running off him and picking up the right areas where people can't get the ball into.

"He never puts a tackle in because he is an interceptor and that's what you need to be in the modern day game as tackling is slowly but surely being phased out. When Matt intercepts the ball he has an uncanny knack of picking the right pass. He just doesn't win it and give it away. He's intelligent enough to take that extra touch and play a simple pass. You have to tip your hat to him for that.

"He speaks very well and he loves football. Some players play it but they don't actually like or love the game. Matt is different. He learned from watching others and he was a real student of the game. That was important and if you want to be the best then you have to watch the best."

READ MORE: Ex-Celtic star reckons Matt O'Riley 'is on par' with Paul McStay

"I watched him a lot when he was at MK Dons when he left Fulham and he just needed game time. That proved to me that all the other things you were concerned about mattered not a jot. He came through every test in League One with flying colours. When he signed for Celtic he was game ready and that was the biggest thing. Celtic is a massive step up and could Matt handle the mental side of playing for such a huge club? I think the answer to that has been emphatic. It's about handling the good and the bad side of playing for Celtic. 

"He has a lovely left foot and he has always seen the game in pictures all throughout his career. He could see clever passes, the reverse passes, he could see everything when his team had the ball. When it flipped over and Matt's team were defending then it was slightly different. I played him in midfield on his own in order to pick up all these other things.

"I was probably the grim reaper for Matt because I would always tell him how poorly he did against the ball. I always worked with him on his game awareness. I could see it plainly that he could play. As a midfield player the job does not stop when you have the ball. I worked on body positions when he didn't have the ball. I geared training sessions towards those things to help him and the other guys improve their game. When he trained he always did to his maximum and every top quality athlete does that in order to try and be the best in training. Matt did that every day when I coached him at Fulham.

"Matt has been learning and constantly evolving like that all of his football career. That is what separates these kind of players from the also-rans. I am delighted that he is reaping the rewards that his talent deserves."

"He is physically a beast too. I said when he first signed for Celtic that he would be one of the best players in the Scottish Premiership and I am delighted for him that he has proven that statement to be correct."

Former Scotland defender Russell Martin was the first manager to offer O'Riley a chance at regular first team football with MK Dons. Now boss of Championship side Southampton, Martin knew immediately that he was coaching a diamond whose rough edges just needed smoothed out.

"I could see right away that Matt was a brilliant footballer. He is an absolutely outstanding technician. Let me tell you something about Matt - his mentality was straight out of the top drawer. At MK Dons he was every manager's dream.

"He was the consummate professional in his preparation. He was really into that and the recovery side of the game. He was a real student of football and was genuinely interested in how he could take his game to the next level and be the best he could be.

"He is physically a beast too. I said when he first signed for Celtic that he would be one of the best players in the Scottish Premiership and I am delighted for him that he has proven that statement to be correct. He’s grown into his role at Celtic and adapted to Scottish football so well. It is not hindsight or being clever after the event, I always knew he would.

"Matt can play in both a deeper or higher role but I believe he is at his best when he plays that bit higher up the pitch because of the quality of his final pass and finishing. I am convinced that Matt will play at the very top levels of the game. I loved working with him at MK Dons and I am even prouder to say that he still keeps in touch which says everything about him as a person as well. "

"Matt was far too good for League One level. He was playing world class passes at MK Dons and he craved players alongside him who were on the same wavelength."

Zak Jules was O'Riley's former teammate at MK Dons. He knew straight away that he was watching something special. Jules admits that he knew instantly that O'Riley was a player who was heading for the top echelons of the game.

"Matt was far too good for the League One level that he was playing at with MK Dons. He was an excellent footballer. We were lucky to have him down there if the truth be told. It was circumstances more than anything that MK Dons managed to get him from Fulham in the end. He ended up signing and he was only there for a short while before he got the move to Celtic. We all knew straight away that this guy was a talent. 

"His footballing IQ alone was way ahead of everybody else's. He did things on a pitch that a lot of players at that level just didn't see in terms of his technical ability, vision and how he saw the game. He would play passes that nobody else on the pitch would be able to see which could be frustrating for him. Matt was playing world class passes for MK Dons and he craved players who were on the same wavelength so they could latch onto them. He therefore had adjust to the level he was playing at - which he did. He certainly would have got more assists for MK Dons if he was playing alongside a better calibre of player.

"Matt improved the squad in general and he was a major reason why the club was pushing for promotion to the Championship that season. He was a major contributor and got his move to Celtic on the back of it. 

"I am not surprised to see that he has become a huge success. I always felt that he had the ability and the temperament to handle the move to Celtic and he has shown that with some of his displays in the Champions League against some stellar opposition. Playing alongside players at that elite level will serve to help enhance and elevate his game as well as his own levels of performance even further.

"When you see your former teammates go and achieve that type of success you are delighted for them, especially for someone like Matt as he totally deserves it. I know he has just broken into the full Danish squad and I am surprised that it has taken so long but I'm sure he will be a regular for Denmark in no time.

"I have seen he's has been linked with a few English Premier League clubs and it really is a case of when and not if that happens. He would be able to handle a move to the top flight in England, no problem. He is one of those players who would take to that like a duck to water and he is just destined to be a success.

"We follow each other on social media and I have tracked his career since he joined Celtic. I am up to date with how well he is doing. We still keep in touch as he is a really humble guy and that is another great trait that he has as a person."

Celtic Way:

I told him that if he wanted to represent Denmark then he had to embrace it fully. I told him that he should be brushing up on and studying his Danish before he came into the national team set-up. All our team meetings were in Danish and I would translate whatever he did not understand. It was very important to me that he would blend in as quickly as possible. It was Matt that came to me and insisted that we should speak Danish to him at all times.

Jesper Sorenson is the current Danish U21 coach and the man who gave O'Riley his first taste of international football. 

"He possesses high quality in his passing game. I think he is very mature as a person and as a player. I have followed his career and I wanted him to play in the Danish national team if he wanted to. Luckily now he has made it all the way up the Danish 'A' team. That is all down to Matt's determination. His mentality is spot on and he is always looking for ways to improve himself.

"He is a mature guy and he is making good moves in terms of his career progression and development. Even this early on he looks like a player who has played over 100 games for Celtic. He is smart and that also makes up for his lack of speed which he might develop moving forward. He is not a fast player but he is fast in his head and that helps him out a great deal. He is a good passer and a good assister but he has recently shown his eagerness to get into the box and he can score goals.  I fully expect him to score goals for Celtic this season. I am happy that having had a talk with Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers that he has improved that ratio already.

"I sensed an ambition in him from very early to play for the Danish national team. He wanted to get there and he wanted to show that he could play international football. I often disappointed him and I substituted him or I left him out of games and I didn't start him in the first game that he joined up with the U21s squad against Belgium. I really understood how ambitious he is and the willpower that he had.

"I actually had a meeting with him in Glasgow after one of the Celtic games and I told him that if he wanted to represent Denmark then he had to embrace it fully. He had to be a representative of the Danish culture and the lifestyle and I wanted him to make the decision that he felt most comfortable with.

"I told him that when he played for Denmark he was part of an institution and he returned to me and he told me that he would be proud to represent Denmark as his mother was Danish. He made that decision at 20 or 21 years of age and that is not an easy thing to do. He also showed maturity beyond his years committing his international future to Denmark. He was always inquisitive and curious and he asked how we could help him and how he could get better.

READ MORE: Matt O'Riley excels on both ends of the pitch for Celtic

"I told him that he should be brushing up on and studying his Danish before he came into the national team set-up. All our team meetings were in Danish and I would translate whatever he did not understand. It was very important to me that he would blend in as quickly as possible.

"It was Matt that came to me and insisted that we should speak Danish to him at all times. Occasionally I would speak to him in English which was probably more for my sake but I had to be clear that he understood everything. It was one of the things he insisted on with me and I liked that. I liked his desire to assimilate himself and embrace the Danish culture and he grasped right away that everything would be on the Danish teams terms and not Matt's terms. It really was impressive to me and the rest of his Danish U21 teammates.

"He is doing so well now for Celtic and I expect that he will be subject to offers and there will be lots of rumours linking him to clubs higher than the Scottish Premiership. Signing for Celtic has been a wonderful move in terms of his career trajectory and his development. I know Matt has signed a new four year contract at Celtic but I would be surprised if he stays in Scotland for another four years. He will be interesting a lot of clubs right now.

"Matt is now firmly on the radar of the Danish national coach Kasper Hjulmand and I know him very well and we have spoken about him many times. He is definitely a player for the future when it comes to Denmark. I don't know how far Matt can take his talent but in my experience all I know is that right now he is a very good place. He is playing at a very good level with his club Celtic in the Champions League. He is a player that already has packed a lot of experience into his early career.

"I saw the game against Real Madrid in the Champions League last season and Matt was one of the players who handled the ball as well as the Madrid players and he was one of the players who stood out in the Celtic team. Matt more than held his own in that kind of elite company. He is so good on the ball and his strength is at a very high level. I believe Matt can go far in his career. He has been good at making excellent decisions so far in his career that has led him to playing at a high level so soon in his career. That is a good thing and will no doubt help him go even further."