CELTIC manager Ronny Deila has expressed his wish to use a significant chunk of the club’s potential £20 million Champions League windfall to build a new indoor facility at their Lennoxtown training centre, rather than use up all of his budget on new players.
On the day Deila confirmed his interest in Serbian international striker Stefan Scepovic, he stressed that his priority is to try to improve the development of his existing squad by enhancing their daily working conditions.
The Celtic Training Centre at Lennoxtown, built at a cost of £8m and opened in 2007, boasts three full-size Uefa-standard outdoor grass pitches. But its indoor hall is not full size and was previously criticised as not fit for purpose by one of Deila’s predecessors, Gordon Strachan, back in 2008.
Deila would like to see a full-size pitch, covered by an all-weather dome, financed by the income Celtic will receive should they overcome Maribor in the second leg of their Champions League play-off next Tuesday night, with the tie poised at 1-1 following Wednesday night’s first leg in Slovenia.
“Of course there would be a difference in the budget if we get through,” said Deila. “But the most important thing for me is to get better artificial grass at Lennoxtown with a dome over it.
“It’s important, because it’s hard weather in Lennoxtown in the winter and the pitches there are not so good.
“So to have the possibility of going inside and having quality training is maybe more important than a new player. It’s what I am looking for and the Champions League could be a positive thing for that. I think (chief executive) Peter Lawwell agrees with me.
“We will see what is possible in terms of timescale to build it, but first we have to get the money to do it. Lennoxtown is fantastic, but it’s just the weather that is a problem. When it’s windy and raining so much, the pace goes out of the training and that’s why it’s important to be able to go inside and do things.
“I’m never after my own CV. It’s not why I went into football. I went into football to create things, and to do that you need to train and have quality in it. An indoor pitch is a positive step for the club and it will be good for the academy as well.
“If you improve your players by ten per cent, it is much better than buying a new player to try and solve the problem – but I hope for both!”
Deila anticipates increased activity in the transfer market once Celtic’s immediate European future becomes clear on Tuesday. His search for a striker has led him in the direction of 24-year-old Scepovic, currently playing in the second tier of Spanish football with Sporting Gijon.
“We’ll see about him,” said Deila. “We are looking for a bigger striker and he is one of the options. We are looking for a striker who can be good with crosses, a target man.
“We already have good strikers, but they are similar. We need different things to use in matches.
“If we get into the Champions League, of course it will be a positive thing in trying to get new players into the club. I have a good feeling something is going to happen in the last ten days of the window, things that could be good for the team.”
Deila, who is still waiting for confirmation of the loan signing of Ghana winger Wakaso Mubarak from Russian club Rubin Kazan, is also hopeful Champions League football can head off the possibility of Virgil van Dijk leaving Celtic.
The highly-rated Dutch defender has again been linked with an £8m move to Newcastle United but his manager believes he is destined for even bigger things and should stay with the Scottish champions for another season at least.
“It’s good for Virgil to be here and play Champions League again,” said Deila. “I hope we go through and I hope he stays. He is vital for us, a very important player. In the last few weeks, he has been excellent and his fitness is much better. He looks motivated and hungry and that will make a huge difference for Celtic.
“I haven’t heard about Newcastle, but good players are going to have things like that all the time. I think Virgil can go to big clubs, and I mean clubs bigger than Newcastle. I think that’s the target for him.
“He has to go into teams that are at the highest level, and he can do that from Celtic if he continues playing the way he does now and working with his concentration and learn from the experiences in the European matches.”