A DAY after being branded a puppet manager by Frank McAvennie, Ronny Deila has risked annoying his paymasters by expressing dissatisfaction with Celtic’s pre-season itinerary.
The Norwegian has come out fighting following comments made by former Celtic striker McAvennie, who highlighted the new manager’s apparent willingness to do the board’s bidding. Such acquiescence was not obvious yesterday as Deila boldly announced that next summer’s plans will be markedly different to their commitments over the last few weeks.
He also insisted he would not be deflected from his purpose by mounting criticism. Some have questioned why he is attempting to alter Celtic’s style of play so soon after being appointed, and in games where so much is at stake. “I can’t play football the way it was before,” said Deila. “That was under a different manager and I have to do my things, my way. You can’t go into a job and say to yourself: I have to do things differently now.
“I know how I want to have my team and I will never change. I will go on and go on and it will always be like that.”
Deila has placed some of the blame for Celtic’s 4-1 defeat by Legia Warsaw last Wednesday on weariness brought on by a schedule in which the players were carted to friendly matches in Austria, Germany (twice) and Helsinki, on top of competitive matches in Iceland and Poland. In total, the players who have featured in all these games have boarded 12 different flights, often returning home to Glasgow in the early hours of the morning.
“Next year it’s going to be totally different,” announced Deila yesterday when, unprompted, he brought up the issue of travelling while reflecting on the reasons for such a disappointing and potentially expensive performance in Warsaw seven days ago.
Should Celtic fail to turn the Champions League third qualifying round tie around this evening at Murrayfield – where they have been forced to play home matches because Celtic Park is currently unavailable after hosting the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games – then it will impact on their financial well-being, which friendly games against such opposition as St Pauli in Hamburg are designed to offset.
However, Deila did not sound sympathetic to this need to balance the books as he considered Celtic’s collapse in Poland. He explained that it was partly the consequence of fatigue, even at this early stage of the season.
Asked whether he would have done anything differently last week, he replied: “Yes, but there are a lot of things you can’t do much about. When you think about the travelling we have been doing – that is connected to the energy. Sometimes you need to be at home with your family and relaxed before your most important game”
His words echoed those of new Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, who recently commented that he is not happy that the players have had to be dragged around the United States for money-spinning friendlies to make up for missing out on the Champions League.
Deila believes it is even more unreasonable to expect teams who have Champions League qualifying commitments to bear the additional burden of lucrative friendlies. But this is the schedule Deila has inherited from previous manager Neil Lennon, although it is reasonable to speculate that he, too, had this itinerary foisted upon him.
“For me, it’s a very easy question to answer,” said Deila. “The other teams from England who are away are not playing Champions League qualifiers. Of course, we can do both but it has to be a decision taken together with the manager. The last one, Neil, maybe thought differently, I don’t know what happened there. But for me, I want it more relaxed. I want to train without travelling too much on long journeys to play matches. It’s an important thing. For four weeks you need to prepare very well.”
Asked whether he had informed Peter Lawwell, the Celtic chief executive, of this view, he said: “We talk all the time. With this, something was put together and we had to go through the programme. But next year I will be more involved in what’s happening. And I will think it’s better for us to do things differently.”
Deila recognised signs of tiredness, mental as well as physical, during last week’s game. The anxiety of competing in such a high-stakes game so early in the summer also saw players become sapped of energy.
“You get tired in your head,” he said. “The game was too much and after a good start we got stressed.”
The poor performance was not, he conceded, down to a lack of commitment. Deila said he was wrong to question whether the players were committed enough following last week’s performance.
“That was the wrong word,” he said yesterday. “I know they are committed because these games are so important to the players. But that’s the way it looked when you looked at it from the outside. But again, it’s all about being clear, letting people know what they have to do and then going out there and doing it. That’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.
“We’ve been working well over the weekend and the players have also had time to rest and to get their energy back ahead of this game.”