RONNY DEILA has revealed how a transatlantic telephone conversation convinced him the appointment of John Collins as his assistant manager at Celtic would not cause any turbulence in the heart of his dressing room.
Collins’ return to Celtic as Deila’s number two has inevitably raised questions over the former Hibs manager’s relationship with the Scottish champions’ captain Scott Brown.
Back in 2007, Brown was among the delegation of players who turned up at Hibs chairman Rod Petrie’s house to complain about Collins’ managerial methods at Easter Road.
But Deila, who believes he has found a kindred footballing spirit in Collins, has no doubts both men have moved on from that spat.
The Norwegian personally informed Brown that Collins would be taking up a key role in the new management team and anticipates no difficulties between the pair.
“Scott is in Miami on holiday and I called him,” said Deila. “Of course, I asked him about John but, as Scott said, it has been many years now and he is a professional, a little older and maybe brighter as well. It’s not going to be any problem. I’m the manager and it’s Scott and me who are going to have the most important dialogue.
“I think this is a much bigger thing for other people than it is for John and Scott. In football, you have a lot of fights and this is nothing at all.
“Listen, if there is no temperature, then there is no development either. If everyone goes to training, returns home and thinks ‘Okay, I don’t give a shit’, then we will stay at the same level all the time.
“We need disagreements but we have to really solve it in a good way for Celtic, for the squad and for the team, and I know it is going to be handled very well. People change over time, of course they do. Seven years ago, I couldn’t have been standing here as Celtic manager talking to you guys.
“You never say something is forever, but of course Scott is going to be the captain for the coming season. He has done a fantastic job for the club. He is very important for me and for the club. I’m looking forward to meeting him and to working alongside him.
“What I like about Scott is his professionalism. It is the same as John. They give 100 per cent in every training session. On the pitch, when something is going wrong, Scott takes care of it and turns it around. That’s what you need from a captain.
“Passion is everything and Scott brings that to the team. You need to see that from players, you need players who can turn things around when they are going wrong. You need them to be hard mentally. I know that Scott is one of them.”
Although Deila had other potential candidates in mind, he says he quickly became convinced Collins had all the necessary qualities for the role.
“I didn’t speak with so many candidates because when I spoke to John, I understood he was the right one,” added Deila. “I love people who have opinions, they are strong people and then you get fights and arguments and that will make me better and it will make him better. You just have to sort them out in a good way so everyone is moving in the right direction for Celtic.
“At heart we agree on football and I also love the standard he has about professionalism, his experience from Europe is also important – that’s why I’ve gone out abroad also, to see what’s happening around me – and he is curious also to learn and I think it is going to be very good.
“He’s going to be my right hand and he’s going to be involved a lot in everything we do and we’re going to talk about football, how we like to play. I need a good staff around me and he’s one of them.”
John Kennedy, currently coach of the Celtic under-20 side, will also be in Deila’s first-team management team at the start of the season.
“He’s a boy who has talent and he’s part of the club,” said Deila. “What position, we don’t know yet. I’m delighted he’s here and he gives me energy when I talk with him.”
Deila will assess his squad first hand when they report for pre-season training next week before making any significant moves in the transfer market. But he says returning to his former club Stromsgodset for players is unlikely to happen, which seems to rule out a move for their Ghana international goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey.
The signing of former Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon remains a possibility, regardless of whether Fraser Forster remains at the club.
“It is still going on with Craig Gordon,” said Deila. “He is a good goalkeeper. The medical staff are saying he can handle the training now. That’s important if he is going to go back to the same level, or maybe even better, than before. You need to train. That seems good, but I have to talk with Craig first. I haven’t done that yet. Craig could be at the club as well as Fraser Forster – of course they can be here together.”
Deila also shrugged off speculation linking new Southampton manager Ronald Koeman with a move for Celtic’s highly-rated Dutch central defender Virgil van Dijk.
“I hope in the future that all our players are the subject of rumours like that,” he said. “Because that will mean we are doing well at Celtic. That’s what I have been used to at Stromsgodset. When we were doing well, every player was linked to different clubs. Everyone wanted my players and that is one of the reasons I am Celtic manager as well.
“I know it is only rumours just now. The day something comes to the office and it is real, then we can talk about it. But I want to keep Virgil, because he is a fantastic player. He is a very important player for us to go into the Champions League with. I will do everything I can to keep him.”
Celtic will discover their initial opposition in the Champions League qualifiers when the draw is made in Nyon on Monday. Deila is eagerly anticipating the tie, with the first leg on 15 or 16 July, and insists having to play the home leg at Murrayfield should not be a negative factor.
“It is exciting,” he said. “We hope for an opponent who will be okay to go through against. But we could meet some good opponents as well. Anyhow, whoever we draw, Celtic should be better. You can make playing at Murrayfield a problem, but I won’t do that. We are going to prepare all we can to get the feeling that it is a home game. It is also important that the supporters turn up and treat it as a home game.”