Ronny Deila was just nine years old when Aberdeen were crowned Scottish champions for the third and final time under Alex Ferguson back in 1985.
It was the last time the title was won by a club other than Celtic or Rangers, a sequence Deila intends to extend by guiding the Parkhead side to a fifth consecutive triumph this season.
If you don’t set high goals, you will never win the league. You have to say that you want to do itRonny Deila
Aberdeen’s chances of seriously threatening that prospect have faltered this week as Derek McInnes’ men dropped four points in successive home games against Inverness and Partick Thistle, missing the chance to snatch top spot in the Premiership going into 2016.
Deila’s priority is to address the uncertain form of his own players who have dropped seven points in their last five league fixtures.
But he remains as surprised as he was last season at the unwillingness of the Aberdeen camp to publicly proclaim any ambition to win the title.
Deila, who forged his reputation by making good on bullish declarations he could lead unfashionable Stromsgodset to the Norwegian title in his homeland, believes it may be a significant factor in Aberdeen’s long struggle to live up to the remarkable standards set by Ferguson.
“I think it’s important [to say you want to win it],” said Deila. “We are all here to win something.
“Everybody remembers Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen. Why? Because he won. A lot of other managers have been at Aberdeen since but I almost can’t name one of them. But I remember Sir Alex because of what he won at Aberdeen. That was a big, big thing.
“Why is it so silly to say you will win it? If you say you will win it and don’t do it, so what? There is only one who can do it – there will be another nine or ten losers, not just you.
“But if you don’t say it and think it how are you going to do it? You have to believe. As an individual athlete you have to always say that you want to be the best. Maybe you won’t get there the first year but it’s why you are doing it. That’s the same in football.
“Every club I coach, I want to win trophies. I said that every year at Stromsgodset, even when I knew we were not going to win it.
“But if you don’t set high goals, you will never win the league. You have to say that you want to do it.
“We said it three years in a row at Stromsgodset but didn’t do it until the last time. Everything is possible if you work in the right way. That’s why you are in football. Is it fun to go around saying you want to finish fourth? Who remembers that?
“It is about winning things. We did that at Stromsgodset. We won the Norwegian Cup first, then were runners-up in the league. Always we took a new step and in the end we won the league, which was a great achievement. But Stromsgodset is not even close to being as big a club as Aberdeen. Hearts are a very big club as well, in a big city. So I can’t see that it should be so unbelievably different here.
“Aberdeen is a very, very big club. It is just behind Celtic and Rangers in Scotland. They are not smaller than the big clubs in Norway. They can have 20,000 people watching them – that’s a big, big club. So I can’t see why they shouldn’t go for trophies. The title, everything – cups as well. Of course. History has shown they can do it. They have done it before.
“Celtic is Celtic, it’s about our history and we have unbelievable supporters. It’s a massive club. But, having said that, Aberdeen are much bigger than a lot of the other clubs as well. They have stability. They have consistency and they have added good players. So they should grow as we should do here at Celtic and everyone else as well.”
At one stage last January, Celtic trailed Aberdeen by four points in the Premiership but found a rich vein of form following their return from a winter training break in Gran Canaria. They have opted to stay at home this year but Deila is hopeful of a similar transformation in their league results, starting at home to Partick Thistle tomorrow.
“We don’t have any European games in the second half of the season this time, so that was a factor,” he said.
“We talked about it and decided we’d prefer to stay here and just play the games. The weather hasn’t been too bad so far, so it’s been fine. We also have more control of our squad now and can rest more than we could last year, so it’s a good decision.
“We were very good over the period from January last season. Going to Spain was good for us then, because after we came back we went to a new level. We brought in some good players and became even better as a team.
“We looked very solid in the last part of the season and that’s something we want to do again now. We had both the ability and the mentality but the squad had been together for six months and the team became settled. We also had a very good defence which was hard to break down. I think we hardly conceded five goals throughout the whole of spring. It was very good. Offensively we started to click better too and that made the big difference.”