Leigh Griffiths sure Deila exit won’t affect title bid

Celtic manager Ronny Deila with the club's top scorer Leigh Griffiths.  Photograph: Alan Harvey/SNS

Celtic manager Ronny Deila with the club's top scorer Leigh Griffiths. Photograph: Alan Harvey/SNS

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Announcing a manager’s departure prior to the end of a season, as Celtic did this week, can prove a problematic and potentially damaging strategy in football.

Perhaps the most notable example of such a decision backfiring happened at Rangers midway through the 
1997-98 campaign when advance notice of Walter Smith’s resignation culminated in the Ibrox club losing out on their bid for a record tenth consecutive league title.

There have been more recent cases in point, with Borussia Dortmund missing out on silverware last season with defeat in the German Cup final after revealing in April that Jurgen Klopp would be stepping down.

Celtic, with a healthy lead at the top of the Premiership table going into their final five fixtures, should be on relatively safer ground in going public with Ronny Deila’s decision to move on this summer.

That is the view taken by striker Leigh Griffiths who insists there is no chance of the Celtic players allowing the news to distract them from the task of seeing the job through to secure a fifth consecutive title win for the club.

“It’s a given that we won’t let that happen,” said Griffiths ahead of tomorrow’s first post-split match against Ross County at Celtic Park.

“The big incentive is to get maximum points from our next few games, secure the title as soon as possible and then we can go and have fun. The gaffer can have fun, everyone connected with the club can have fun and we can look forward to title day at the end of the season.

“It’s not been a good few days for the club. The most disappointing thing was losing to Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final last Sunday and then the gaffer coming in and saying he is leaving at the end of the season.

“He just told us it was his decision to walk away. That was pretty much it. He told us it was his decision, it wasn’t the club forcing him out. As players, we respect his decision.

“Now we know we need to look forward and the response we need is to give him the perfect send off by making sure he can lift that trophy in the last game of the season.

“That would be the fitting way for him to leave. It would be three trophies on his CV in two years at the club. Some might think of that as failure, but it will look pretty good on his CV.”

Griffiths had to work hard to convince Deila of his worth at Celtic, starting out as a fringe player in the Norwegian’s plans before establishing himself as his first-choice striker. His 37 goals this season have provided Deila with the opportunity to claim his second 
Premiership title.

“It’s been well documented that the first four months for me under the gaffer weren’t great but after that I’ve not really looked back,” reflected Griffiths.

“I’ve played some of the best football of my career under him and hopefully I can continue that with the next manager.

“Did a change have to be made? It’s hard to say. There was pressure from the fans and pundits calling for his head. As players, we had a job to do. People say last Sunday was the final straw, but if we had won that game it would have been different altogether. We can’t really say whether changing manager is the right or wrong thing to do.”

Griffiths did concede that Deila’s departure will not be a cause for universal regret among the Celtic squad.

“That’s part and parcel of any dressing room,” he added. “Some people will not be in favour, some people will be in favour.

“But with a new manager coming in now, everyone has got a clean slate and it’s up to them to go and impress.”

In the immediate aftermath of defeat by Rangers at Hampden, Celtic defender Charlie Mulgrew offered the view that even clinching a fifth consecutive league title would not fully compensate for that Old Firm disappointment.

While Griffiths understands Mulgrew’s view, he believes success over the next few weeks can bring a different perspective.

“Charlie is still hurting, as the rest are, because he’s a Celtic fan and getting beat by Rangers is hard to take,” said 
Griffiths.

“It was like how I felt as a Hibs fan playing for Hibs whenever we lost to Hearts. I mean, I got humiliated in a Scottish Cup final in the biggest Edinburgh derby there will ever be.

“But when we go and lift that title on the last day of this season, memories of last Sunday will be put away to the back of our minds.

“The fans will still be hurting from last Sunday, as are the players, but we need to move forward now and the only way to do that is to get three points against Ross County.”

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