RONNY Deila has emerged from out of left field and directly into pole position to fill Celtic’s managerial vacancy.
The 38-year-old head coach of Norwegian champions Stromsgodset could even be installed as Neil Lennon’s successor by the end of this week, after club sources confirmed he had been elevated to the top of their short-list of candidates.
Largely unheralded outside his homeland, Deila is regarded as the brightest coaching talent in Norway, where his style of management has been compared to that of the highly regarded Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp.
Deila is under contract to Stromsgodset until 2016, having signed a new deal last year after leading the Drammen-based club to only the second Norwegian title win in their 107-year history. He turned down an offer to take charge of Swedish champions Malmo earlier this year.
Stromsgodset chairman Tom Saxegaard is hopeful he can fend off the latest advance for the man who has been his manager since he retired as a player six years ago.
“We are going to play in the Champions League this year and, obviously, we want to keep him,” said Saxegaard. “He’s our manager and is under contract with us for two-and-a-half-years. We really think he can get to the very top.”
But Deila, who has never worked outside Norway either
as a player or coach, is understood to have informed Stromsgodset that he wishes to accept the opportunity at Celtic.
Confronted by local reporters in Tromso yesterday, where he was preparing his side for a Norwegian Cup tie against second-tier side Tromsdalen last night, Deila refused to discuss Celtic’s interest.
“I will not talk about that stuff now,” said Deila. “I have to wait for a few hours. I hope you understand it.”
Celtic first became aware of Deila while they were scouting his Stromsgodset side ahead of their £2 million purchase of Norwegian international midfielder Stefan Johansen in January. The Scottish champions continued to monitor Deila and have now identified him as an ideal candidate to become their new head coach.
“Ronny Deila is both highly rated and increasingly sought-after,” said a Celtic source. “He is a modern coach who encourages his team to play attractive, attacking football. The board believe he could fit the bill for Celtic going forward.”
While Celtic still have “another couple” of potential candidates under consideration, the source confirmed that Deila had moved to the front of the queue.
It marks a dramatic switch in focus after Celtic had appeared poised to secure the services of their former player Roy Keane for the job. When he dramatically withdrew his candidacy on Monday morning, preferring to remain as assistant to Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill, the currently out-of-work trio of former English Premier League managers Steve Clarke, Owen Coyle and Malky Mackay moved to the top of the bookmakers’ betting market.
But it now seems Celtic’s major shareholder Dermot Desmond and chief executive Peter Lawwell are prepared to go down a less conventional route.
They are keen to have their new man in place as quickly as possible to give him time to prepare for their Champions League qualifying campaign which begins on 15 or 16 July. Coincedentally, Celtic could face Stromsgodset in those qualifiers.
Speaking outside Celtic Park yesterday morning, Lawwell declined to comment on any individuals but expressed his hope the club were approaching a conclusion in the recruitment process. He said: “There is nothing more we can say, we are still working on it. But, hopefully, within the next few days, or certainly within the next week, we might have something to say.
“We are still working on the same number [of candidates]. We are talking to a lot of people and hopefully we will get the right guy soon.
“We have met a few of the guys and it’s been good. We have enjoyed the process and there have been a lot of great candidates.”