It made a change yesterday for there not to be one person linked to the Celtic job that Ronny Deila is occupying. Problem for the Norwegian is that there were three men being placed in the frame. Neil Lennon parting company with Bolton Wanderers led one bookmaker to install the Irishman as favourite to return to his old job at Parkhead in the summer.
In the course of a television interview, meanwhile, David Moyes described Celtic as “a great love” and offered a “who knows” when asked if he would be interested in returning to the game at the club where he started his playing career. Then there was fellow out-of-work and fellow former Celtic defender Malky Mackay on radio agreeing the position would represent his “dream job” when, inevitably, the Celtic management question was raised with him.
Mackay, to his credit, also stressed that “vultures touting for your job” spoke of a “lack of class” in distancing himself from the pecking at Deila in post. Backers of the Celtic manager, or even just those who might find the rubbishing of a man who could yet land Celtic only their third league and Scottish Cup double in a decade a little disrespectful, are rarely heard.
At Celtic Park yesterday Gary Mackay-Steven proved both defender of his manager and dismisser of the done-for talk surrounding him. Considering the winger has been a regular in recent months, and depends on Deila for that to remain the case, it is natural to offer up “he-would-say-that-wouldn’t-he” in response to any endorsement of his boss by the 25-year-old. Yet, Mackay-Steven was convincing in a support of Deila that did not rely on platitudes.
“Certainly, yes”, the player said when asked if Moyes and Mackay being asked whether they wanted a job currently filled was unfair on Deila. “We’re still in two competitions. Everything is in our hands. We’re all behind the manager here, and he’s certainly behind the players. I think you can take that with a pinch of salt. We certainly do as players. We just go about our business and play for the manager.”
It was put to Mackay- Steven that the constant scrutiny of Deila’s employment status could be an added pressure for the squad in the course of a title race wherein Aberdeen are putting the Scottish champions under plenty.
“You could look it like that, but I don’t,” he said. “I take no notice of anything like that. It’s not for me to speak about or deal with. I am enjoying playing under the manager that is here now and that’s what I’ll continue to do. It’s in our hands. If we just concentrate on ourselves and good performances on Saturdays then maybe that talk will go down a little bit.”
Most compelling of all in Mackay-Steven’s defence of Deila was his take on the former Stromsgodset manager’s training methods. “I really enjoy it [working with him],” he said. “I think he’s been great since day one. Training’s hard and the first few weeks when I came in I thought ‘this is tough’. Having worked with him for a year I definitely feel I have improved tactically and I’m enjoying his training.
“Going back to my very first session, what sticks out in my mind is being told it was a medium session, with sessions normally low, medium or high. ‘Oh, right, cool, just break me in’, I thought. And it was the toughest sessions I’ve ever done – so it certainly wasn’t medium for me. You get used to it and I’ve adapted.
“I’d say I’m more aware of where I am on the park, positionally and tactically, maybe defensively as well. I feel better in all areas really and that’s down to him.”