Chris Sutton says that the Ronny Deila era at Celtic has left the club’s support “resigned” to accepting “bang average dross” and that over the next fortnight chief executive Peter Lawwell must recruit the seasoned campaigners sought by his manager to end a cycle of sub-standard domestic performances and sorry attempts to qualify for the Champions League.
A stalwart of Martin O’Neill’s 2001 treble-winning side, Sutton pulled no punches in assessing the 18-month tenure of Deila yesterday. He expressed no confidence in the Norwegian but offered a degree of sympathy over the club’s attitude to improving the squad he presides over.
“I think there’s an air among the supporters of being resigned at the minute to bang average dross at times – [such as] the Partick game [on 2 January], scrambling to a win,” said the Englishman, who will be part of the BT Sport commentary tonight when Celtic travel to Tannadice to take on Dundee United. “This time last season the team really kicked on, I think that’s fair to say. The supporters and all of us really want to see the team kick on again. I think that’s important for Ronny that he does that.
“Things just aren’t right and they need to find a way of, domestically, playing a brand of football which excites the fans and which people will want to go and watch.
“That hasn’t happened. In Europe, they need to address massive issues because I can’t see it getting any better otherwise.
“If there is no stability or continuity between now and the summer then we’ll start the next European campaign, get one or two new players in and then we’re out of the Champions League again.
“You can’t do that year in and year out. If Peter Lawwell is backing him – which he seems to be – then surely there comes a time when they have to speculate a bit and get experienced players in. Ronny’s said a month or two ago that they need to sign experienced players, So why wait? It’s 14 January now and I don’t understand why they’re hanging about.
“Going on his [Deila’s] record it may be hard to make a case to keep him. Certainly in terms of the European campaign and the progress of players. The team has not progressed.
“So this is a critical period for Celtic. If Peter Lawwell has made the decision to keep him there is no point in not backing him, because he is hanging him out even further.
“If you keep him, get behind him and give him the tools he needs.
“In terms of progression, have Celtic progressed in Europe since last season? No. Have they played the style of football Ronny promised? No.
“He was given the job by Peter Lawwell, Peter has kept him in a job and that makes this [next] five months sort of ‘now or never’ really, because domestically they have a great chance to win a treble and kick on.
“But if it’s the same brand of football we have seen served up this season domestically is that really going to convince everybody?
“Ultimately football is about players and you have to say going into Champions League qualifiers next season Celtic will struggle.
“We will still be talking about the same players next season. We will be talking about [Leigh] Griffiths, we will be talking about [Kris] Commons.
“Commons was discarded for a large part of Ronny’s early Celtic career, but he is always the man who steps up and provides a pass or scores a goal.
“And until Celtic get to a stage where they actually buy the experienced type they say they are looking for things are not going to change.”
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