Ronny Deila celebrates passing his ‘tenth-grade’ test

Efe Ambrose performs  a backflip as Celtic get into party mode.

Picture: Ian Rutherford
Efe Ambrose performs a backflip as Celtic get into party mode. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Share this article
3
Have your say

Ronny Deila must wait just a little longer before a second Scottish Premiership title can be formally added to his CV in indelible ink.

But after pencilling it in bold with an authoritative and committed victory by his team at Tynecastle on Saturday, the outgoing Celtic manager was content to reflect on what he regards as a job well done.

Critical assessment of Deila’s two-year tenure must cover many failings on the Norwegian’s part, most notably on the European stage, while his own admission that a lack of progress on the pitch was “killing him” in recent months led to the decision which will see him leave the club this month.

He will at least depart on a positive note when Celtic receive the Premiership trophy after their final match of the season at home to Motherwell on 15 May.

Aberdeen delayed official confirmation of Celtic’s fifth successive league title with their own win over Motherwell on Saturday, leaving the reigning champions nine points clear with three games remaining. But with a superior goal difference of 35 in Celtic’s favour, the race is effectively over before the Dons travel to Parkhead on Sunday.

The post-match celebrations of Deila, his staff and players at Tynecastle appeared just a little stilted, perhaps reflecting the often underwhelming nature of their passage towards Celtic becoming Scottish champions for the 47th time in the club’s history.

But this was nonetheless a day when Deila was entitled to express satisfaction at his journey from winning the Norwegian title with unheralded Stromsgodset in 2013 to claiming back-to-back Scottish crowns at Celtic.

“It’s not a bad CV, it’s a good one,” said Deila. “But it’s the road to it that’s the most important thing. I came from first grade to tenth grade when I came to Celtic. I didn’t understand what I went into. But I have been strong and I have learned an unbelievable amount and I have good staff around me and fantastic players.

“I have built myself a platform for a lot of experience that you can’t get in school or reading books. You have to experience it. I am so motivated to do this and I am proud of a lot of things we have done here.

“The best managers in my opinion are those who can build something up in different places and work outside their comfort zone. I went from Stromsgodset after winning the league because I was starting to get a little bit bored. I haven’t been bored here, I can tell you that! So I brought myself out of my comfort zone and now I am a much stronger person and a more experienced manager as well.

“I won’t regret my decision to leave, not even when I see Celtic playing in the Champions League qualifiers this summer. This was my decision, there was too much pressure on me and it affected the club and the players.

“I hadn’t lost the players, you could see that today. But because I was nothing, coming from Norway, I had to build myself up here. We lost some important games this season and in the end I think it would have been hard for the club to go into the Champions League with me. So it feels right.”

After the dismally tame display in the 1-1 draw at home to Ross County the previous week in Celtic’s first match after the announcement of Deila’s departure, his players responded with a far more intense and purposeful performance at Tynecastle.

They were more than worth their 1-0 half-time lead, provided by Colin Kazim-Richards’ first league goal for Celtic when he applied a smart finish to a Mikael Lustig cross in the 17th minute.

Hearts offered little in that first half but a double substitution at the start of the second period, with Callum Paterson and Abiola Dauda entering the fray, brought immediate and significant improvement to Robbie Neilson’s side.

Dauda equalised in the 57th minute, completing a powerful run through the middle with a firm right-foot shot beyond Craig Gordon, and the match was suddenly finely balanced. It tipped back in Celtic’s favour with the help of some shoddy defending by Hearts.

John Souttar was especially culpable, being dispossessed cheaply when Patrick Roberts made it 2-1 for Celtic and then losing out to Leigh Griffiths when the striker netted his 39th goal of the season to wrap up all three points for the visitors.

“It is not nice to see another team claim a title at your ground,” said Hearts captain Alim Ozturk. “We didn’t want them to win it here but it happened. We want to keep winning games before the end of the season, but last week against Motherwell was not good enough and against Celtic individual mistakes cost us.

“To finish third in the Premiership in our first year back up from the Championship is really good, even though we have now lost two games in a row. We have to build on it from here. Maybe we can go for the league next season. We have a strong team with some young talent. If you can keep a big group of players together, we will have a strong team again next season and we will see where we can finish.”