A FIRST visit to Tynecastle for Ronny Deila might require the Celtic manager to watch his team’s Scottish Cup tie from an unusual vantage point. “I’ll have to sit in my cage,” the Norwegian jokes, a reference to his predecessor, Neil Lennon, being confronted pitchside by an angry Hearts fan during a league encounter in 2011.
Deila isn’t in the least daunted by the “very intense, fantastic atmosphere” with “fans very close” that he expects at an arena capable of inducing supporter frenzy like just about no other in the country. He doesn’t excuse what happened to Lennon there three-and-a-half years ago, but, since arriving in Scotland in June, he has come to “understand” why the game in this country can cause some to lose control in egregious fashion.
“The passion for football here is much more than I was used to before,” he says. “There’s a lot of emotion, but you have to behave the right way and, if I do that, I hope I’ll get good results and not get attacked. I heard he [Lennon] had a bodyguard, but we have to keep things inside the ground and not outside. The passion is fantastic here and I love that. It would never happen in Norway.”
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The emotional connection he has developed for Celtic has been channeled through assistant John Collins and first-team coach John Kennedy. The pair are not just two former players of the club, but lifelong followers of it, and to Deila that has genuine significance. “It’s been so important to have them,” he says. “Those two have the passion for Celtic that every supporter has. It’s like a family here. And because of that, I have to protect it like I would do my own child. That’s a good feeling.”
Deila could feel good about himself on Thursday because, even with the 3-1 loss to Salzburg that evening, the eight points his team had harvested in their previous four-game unbeaten run in their Europa League Group D campaign were sufficient to earn them a place in the last 32.
The Austrians he calls the “role models” for the high energy, pack-style pressing game he wants to advance at Celtic Park. “There is a lot of team spirit, togetherness and commitment in how Salzburg all want to do their work. They are hard to play against and they are very attacking. They play very direct and that’s what we want as well.
“I think in the second half we pulled them backwards and that was something I enjoyed. I hope we get more of that. That’s the goal and when we do that, we get the crowd behind us and that makes it hard for opponents to play at Celtic Park.”
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