It was appropriate that Ronny Deila came out fighting yesterday. There has been no shortage of scraps at Celtic recently. From Kris Commons cursing his coaching team on being substituted during the mauling by Molde in the Europa League ten days ago to Nadir Ciftci kicking Emilio Izaguirre on the side of the head in training this week the club has seemed to have warring factions. Among the support, too, with a reduced band of Deila supporters post-Molde ranged against those pondering his suitability for the role.
His attempts yesterday to push a “them and us” agenda over where he has taken the club was, perhaps, in part his way of rallying the core support behind him. Equally, though, with the possibility that a seven-point league lead could be established over Aberdeen by tea-time today being an event that would have the followers of the game in the country going “big wows”, maybe he actually feels that the Scottish football world is against him and his club.
If so, and that is what he suggested at length yesterday, it represents a failure truly to grasp the situation in which Celtic find themselves – even as he says he fully appreciates that wins for his club mean “nothing” while any defeat is a “scandal”. “This club is unbelievably big. It’s so successful, and that’s why the demands are like that. Everybody wants to see weakness and negativity but it’s not so easy to find it,” was Deila’s catch-all for dismissing criticism, on a day when he revealed that Scott Brown will have further scans on a knee problem that will keep him out of today’s game and the tie with Molde on Thursday.
Pat Bonner and Alex McLeish, have floated the notion that an exit from Europe – which could be effectively a done deal if victory isn’t secured Thursday – would be damaging to Deila’s employment prospects.
There has been a ludicrous amount of froth over the likelihood Deila could be replaced before next season. But Neil Lennon required three summers to qualify for the group stages of a European tournament. Celtic chief Peter Lawwell and largest shareholder Dermot Desmond have placed much store in the cerebral approach of Deila. They will give him every opportunity in Champions League qualifiers, the club budgeting for the group stages three years out of five. Deila hasn’t had his final strike.
“In the last ten, 15 years, there have been ups and downs here as well,” Deila said. “Almost every manager they stick with. Most managers have been here for a long while – four or five years. They give people time. That’s because they are clever. They understand that you need time to develop something and to create something. They see that things are turning around. It’s not like ‘here you have the culture before, then we change around and after six months it’s the Ronny culture so you have to be much better’. This takes years. But you have to keep the results going as well. Every team loses a game sometimes.
“I know [I am guaranteed time]. They [Lawwell and Desmond] are following everything. I know that they support me and my staff in what we are doing. Why bring me in here then? They wanted to go in a different direction. That’s why they brought me in. I feel absolutely trusted by the players, by the staff, by the board. By everybody. This club is so united. It’s fantastic. I really, really enjoy it every day.
“But people outside are reading these guys [McLeish and Bonner] coming up with comments – even though the results of the club have been unbelievable for many, many years. If everything is negative all the time on the outside, you get into a thinking – everyone not in the club is getting inside their brains all the time that everything is bad. Sometimes I have to say ‘what’s going on here?’ There are so many positive things.
“Sometimes it’s a bit funny for me to listen to all these crazy things. We are a big selling club. We sell the best players when we are ready and then buy talent. Yet we keep winning.
“We had a hard couple of away games in Europe when we played under our standards [against Malmö and Molde] and that’s something we have to learn from. We have to sort out the defence and concede less but in football you will always have these trends that you have to turn around. When you lose two central defenders [Virgil van Dijk and Jason Denayer] it takes time to build up again but we have scored more goals in Europe – five in three games. We have to put the defence in order and be serious about the things that are not good. But we have to see the big picture and that is what I’m saying now.”