Former Celt now stranger in Paradise
Staggie O’Brien takes trip down memory lane this afternoon
Jim O’Brien’s trip to Paradise is also a journey down memory lane.
The Ross County midfielder grew up supporting the Glasgow club and was a season ticket-holder before his playing talents took him through his boyhood club’s youth teams and off to diverse corners of the country.
Having left second club Motherwell in 2010, O’Brien hopes to set foot on Parkhead’s turf for the first time in seven years after stints with Barnsley, Coventry City, Scunthorpe United and Shrewsbury Town.
The 29-year-old from Alexandria is determined to inflict fresh hurt on the team he has supported for as long as he can remember.
Recovered from a complex hamstring problem that kept him out of the team against Partick Thistle last week, O’Brien said: “There’s a buzz, definitely, for me going back to Celtic as I used to have a season ticket there. I was there for the last game of last season when they played Hearts and so much has changed. It’s not the Parkhead I knew, even though it is the same stadium, but there’s definitely a real tingle of excitement driving up to the stadium and playing in front of 60,000 people.
“All of my mates will be there as well, supporting Celtic. It’s a good day and one to test ourselves against the best players in the country.”
O’Brien watched Celtic’s crushing defeat to Paris St Germain on Tuesday night on television with team- mate Michael Gardyne and hopes, but doesn’t expect, fatigue from the game will make life marginally easier for County.
O’Brien stressed: “Sometimes you’ve just got to hold your hands up and say wow.
“Paris St Germain were incredible and hopefully Celtic will be a little bit tired, but we know they will be hurting and will send out a strong team. On Tuesday, I was saying to my mates that’s how it feels for everyone else in Scotland. Celtic now know how it feels for the rest of us.
“They’ll be hurting and will want a positive result straight away.
“Even among those who haven’t been starting, there are the likes of Callum McGregor and Tom Rogic on the bench, who are fresh. They have enough dangerous players to freshen it up and Moussa Dembele could be back as well.
“But we’re looking forward to the game. The bookies and everyone else will expect a poor day for us, but we want to show how well we can play against Celtic.”
O’Brien can draw encouragement from County’s home draw with Celtic in Dingwall last season, adding: “I enjoyed that game. We frustrated them. Going down there, we want to try to do to them what they did not do to PSG the other night – get in their faces and frustrate them again.”