RONNY Deila has launched an impassioned defence of his methodology as Celtic manager, insisting he is prepared to return home to Norway if it proves unacceptable in Scottish football.
Deila has experienced a chequered start to his tenure with the Parkhead club, winning just seven of his first 15 games in charge and failing to guide them into the group stage of the Champions League.
The 39-year-old has introduced new diet and conditioning regimes at Celtic’s training centre in Lennoxtown and has regularly questioned the fitness levels of his players.
That recently provoked a scornful reaction from Deila’s predecessor, Neil Lennon, but Deila is unapologetic. He is adamant that the Celtic squad are fully supportive of his approach which he stresses was sanctioned by major shareholder Dermot Desmond and chief executive Peter Lawwell prior to his appointment in June.
“There are many roads to Rome, but I have to believe in my way,” said Deila ahead of tonight’s Europa League Group D fixture against Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb at Celtic Park.
“If Celtic or Scotland are not ready for that, then I will go back to Norway. It’s no problem.
“I’m here to do something. I want to make something here. If you don’t do it, then okay, I tried. But I really believe the players are enjoying it and they want to adapt to it. I am so satisfied with their attitude.
“Dermot and Peter are very intelligent. They have seen football for many, many years. They know how to build things. They wanted a change and that’s why I came in. If not, they would have gone for a manager with much more experience and would have done it more like it was done before. It’s a club thing, they are going in a new direction. That’s why I’m here. You have to see from my squad what I was taking over. Some of the players were injured and had operations, some were coming in and were not where they should be.
“When I see the tests they are doing, I see they have a lot to improve. Maybe I see things differently from what Neil was doing. For me, to be professional is to be a 24-hour athlete. If not, then you can go and start working outside football. You can be amateurs again.
“You have to understand that I can’t be stupid when I say things like that and if Neil gets irritated by me saying we can work on how we eat and improve, that’s up to him. If Louis van Gaal was coming in and saying all these things, you would be sitting there nodding your heads. But I come from Norway where you think they are only good at skiing.”
Deila believes his players must aspire to the fitness levels of some of the world’s leading athletes as he attempts to mould them into a side capable of competing successfully in the Champions League every year.
“I really think the Scottish players are open to new things,” added Deila. “Most of the things are not so new, they knew about them already. But are we talking Scotland or are we talking Europe? To win in Scotland, we can still do the same things as before. But to succeed in Europe, you have to adapt to Europe.
“If you tell me that a player can be three or four kilos too heavy and play against Cristiano Ronaldo, then good luck. I get irritated discussing it. You have to understand that the fitness is unbelievable out there. If you see Gareth Bale, that’s Champions League level. So are we not going to try and adapt to that?
“Do you think Andy Murray eats chips? For Andy Murray to win Wimbledon, he did something different to what he did four or five years before. He looks much sharper, much fitter and, if you ask him about that, you will get good answers.
“I have spoken with a lot of good athletes and also looked at a lot of top teams. Everywhere, they are into these things, so I don’t think it is just me. If you went for a trip to Manchester City or Chelsea and saw the professionalism there, I think you would be shocked.
“I want to do something with a big club and you don’t do that in days or weeks. You do it in months or years. You never know when it is the right time or not to take this job. I took over a team who are champions. That’s much better than taking over a team who are bottom of the table.
“Things were being done very well but you have to adapt further. There are always things you can improve. The best athletes and teams are always thinking that, that they have to adapt to do even better.
“It is very hard to do it at a club where the result pressure is so high. You have to do more than just think short term every day. I want to think long term and short term.
“I hope the players question things. We have arguments about a lot of things. But it’s about understanding and talking. People have choices.
“But Celtic is going one way and that is upwards. We are going to develop. If you are going to be into it, you have to make changes yourself. I have to adapt, I have to be a better manager than I was in Norway. I have to learn new things, sacrifice things that I would have done in Norway. It’s the same for my players. They are playing for Celtic, the best club in Scotland, and we are going to compete in the Champions League. You have to make sacrifices for that.
“Nothing shocked me when I came in to the club. The result pressure is unbelievable here and it’s very hard to do something new. You don’t dare to do it because you are afraid to lose. The players also have to adapt to that way of thinking. If you win, everything is okay. If you lose, hell is there.
“But if you don’t make mistakes, you don’t improve. If you always play the same way, you will get the same things. If you don’t want to develop, you will never get anywhere. You will always be the same – boring for a long time.”