IF RONNY Deila gets round to writing a book about his Parkhead tenure some day, he would be the first to admit the opening pages won’t make especially pleasant reading from a Celtic perspective.
Catapulted from relative obscurity in Norway to take up one of the most intensely scrutinised managerial posts in football, Deila has endured a turbulent first couple of months in the job.
Along with the bizarre and unwanted distinction of his team being eliminated from the Champions League twice inside three weeks, Deila’s quest to impose his style of football on Celtic has also seen them drop four points in the first four games of their Scottish Premiership title defence.
In the words of chief executive Peter Lawwell, the new manager has had to deal with a “sh**storm” in his first few weeks as successor to Neil Lennon.
But the close of the transfer window, which saw strikers Stefan Scepovic and John Guidetti added to his squad, and a brief holiday back home in Norway with his family during the international break have left Deila refreshed and optimistic about the rest of the season.
“It’s kind of Chapter Two now,” said Deila with a smile. “I’m very glad I had Chapter One, because it can’t be more intense than those first ten weeks.
“We were travelling all over Europe, there were a lot of new things. Without those ten weeks, I wouldn’t be here with the knowledge I have now. So that has been positive. But of course it’s going to be more my chapter now.
“I had a nice break at home and there was a lot of time for reflection. When you are playing games all the time, it’s very hard to see the whole picture, so it was very good to just reflect on where we are and what the next moves are.
“I can see positive things happening. Of course, there are things we need to do better and I’m looking forward now to getting started.
“Looking back on the first ten weeks, it was a situation that I don’t think anyone can prepare themselves for in their head.
“To take charge of a big team is one thing, but I was also coming into a new culture and new country. We also had the Champions League qualifiers very quickly, along with the transfer window which takes up a lot of energy.
“I can understand what Peter was saying when he described it the way he did. But it’s also been fantastic in a lot of ways. There is so much potential here. There are two things we need to be better at – improve the fitness even more and to get a better pattern of play, a quicker game, when we are attacking. That’s what I want.
“This is a fantastic job, but it’s also a very hard job. I know where I want to be and I’m looking forward to sitting one day and thinking ‘You’ve made it!’. Every night when I go to sleep, I think about that.
“I think it is an even bigger club than I imagined. You can’t say no to that question. Of course there has been a lot of pressure. I think the pressure after bad results is different to what I’m used to. I’ve been at smaller clubs where I can build something, but here you have to win and develop at the same time and that is very difficult. But also we have much better players here.
“I know it is going to be tough in the first year. I’ve been through it before at other clubs. I know I will get through it and that the fun part will come.
“To get there, we need to win games. I’ve got a very good squad here and I know if we don’t win the league this season, it is a disaster.”
Following defeat at Inverness and a draw at Dundee last time out, there is a growing perception Celtic may not present as fearsome a challenge to other Scottish clubs as in previous seasons.
“You would have to ask the other teams that,” shrugged Deila. “But I know how good we are when we are playing well. We’ve had good spells in every match this season.
“We didn’t play well against Dundee but we had 70 per cent possession and made 700 passes. We have to create more. It would be worse if we didn’t have the ball, so it’s about what we do with our attacking play. It’s also about our defending, especially in transition.
“That’s what I love to do, to work with a team which has the ball a lot. I want us to look more like we did against Dundee United when we beat them 6-1. We showed ourselves in a good way that day. In time, we will hopefully see that every week.”
Deila’s ‘second chapter’ begins with the visit of Aberdeen to Celtic Park today, followed by the opening Europa League group stage fixture against Red Bull Salzburg in Austria on Thursday night.
“Now we know what kind of squad we have after the transfer window and what we have to work with,” he added. “The squad we had was not good enough for the Champions League. But in the Europa League I think we have a very good opportunity to get experience and to get through to the next stage.”
Celtic fans could get their first glimpse of new strikers Scepovic and Guidetti this afternoon, with the Serbian and the Swede both fit and available to make their debuts.
“We had to wait until the end of the transfer window – even beyond the last minute with Guidetti – to get the signings we wanted,” said Deila. “But we did the right thing, because if we had signed someone earlier we were not sure of, we would have regretted it.
“Scepovic and Guidetti could be a good partnership up front. It’s important now to look at the players in training and matches to find the best combinations in the team.
“Guidetti can only play in domestic games for the first six months but that’s also important, because we have a lot of games. We had good strikers here before we signed Scepovic and Guidetti, but I think we are more complete now and can be more dangerous when crosses come in from the wide areas.”