Deila questions role in Celtic’s insipid demise

Kris Commons denied Deila's claim that Celtic played with fear. Picture: AP
Kris Commons denied Deila's claim that Celtic played with fear. Picture: AP
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RONNY Deila has admitted he must question his own role in Celtic’s dismal Champions League demise as the inquest into their defeat in Malmo continues.

The Norwegian coach expects to come under fresh scrutiny from the club’s support who were left reeling by the lame nature of Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat by the Swedish champions which eliminated Celtic 4-3 on aggregate at the play-off stage of Europe’s premier tournament.

Deila’s European record as Celtic manager makes fairly grim reading, having now won just eight and lost seven of his 20 Champions League and Europa League fixtures since his appointment 14 months ago.

The 39-year-old described his players as “scared” and “stressed” in their performance against a Malmo side assembled at a fraction of the cost and on a much lower wage bill than the Scottish champions.

But Deila knows the buck stops at his door, having been given full licence by the Celtic board to restructure the football department at the club in terms of fitness training, medical care, sports science and nutrition.

After his first attempt at Champions League qualification resulted in two aggregate defeats last year, a 6-1 humiliation at the hands of Legia Warsaw overturned due to an administrative error by the Poles before losing again to Maribor of Slovenia, Deila was also allowed to arrange his own pre-season programme this time around.

Celtic stayed at home, playing three friendlies in Paisley, instead of travelling extensively around Europe in the kind of schedule Deila felt had adversely affected them last season. But with the changes having failed to reap the required reward, Deila will go back to the drawing board in his efforts to restore Celtic’s Champions League credibility.

“I will ask myself what can be done to make sure we are not as stressed as the team was on Tuesday night,” said Deila. “It is another year before we can get back into the Champions League and that’s why we must learn. That’s what we have to look at. We have to evaluate it and see what we can do differently, both individually and as a team.

“Criticism is the one thing you have to live with in football. I understand that while we are very disappointed, our supporters are disappointed as well. But we win and lose together. We have to cope with it and move on. We have to learn from this and be a better team the next time.

“Sports psychology is important, but everything you learn is through experience. The best players will learn. This is a very disappointed group of players but it has happened now. All we can do is try to learn something from what has happened.”

Celtic must now turn their attention to the consolation prize of Europa League football as they await their fate in tomorrow’s group stage draw for Uefa’s second-tier tournament.

They can expect to earn around £8 million from participation in the Europa League, compared to the sum of around £21m which would have come their way in the Champions League.

The widely anticipated sale of Virgil van Dijk to Southampton may make up a sizeable chunk of that shortfall and while Deila remains hopeful the Dutch defender may yet stay at Celtic, he expects the proceeds of any transfer to be used for new recruits to his squad.

“Virgil has ambitions to take the next step in his career but it has to be right for everybody if that is to happen,” added Deila.

“Everything will go back into the club [if it does happen], of course. That’s how it has been over the years and that’s how it will be in the future.”

Kris Commons, meanwhile, has denied Deila’s claims that Celtic played with fear.

“I wouldn’t say it was fear,” Commons said. “I don’t think we played with fear. They came into the game knowing that they needed a goal, whereas we were trying to do just enough to keep a clean sheet.” Commons, a second-half substitute, added: “No, I didn’t feel stressed.”