GORDON Strachan famously used a woollen hat to get him around Glasgow undetected when he was in charge of Celtic.
Ronny Deila did not get a list of stockists for that vital piece of undercover headware from his celebrated predecessor, but Strachan certainly told the Norwegian just how difficult it is to walk in the shoes of any Celtic manager.
Deila has revealed the current Scotland manager became a huge source of advice on his job with the champions after the pair had a meal together recently.
The former Stromsgodset coach will experience a football “first” today when the champions welcome Ross County to Celtic Park for the Scottish Premiership encounter because in Norway there are no matches at this time of year.
Deila usually spends Christmas on the beach in Brazil, but he has invited his parents and sons to Glasgow to spend the festive season in his new city, and watch today’s game.
The man who replaced Neil Lennon has only been in the job for six months, but is shrewd enough to recognise that any input from a predecessor will help his steep learning curve, on and off the pitch. Strachan won three successive league titles in his four-year tenure at Celtic but was equally successful at keeping his private life under wraps to enjoy some normality.
The woollen hat allowed Strachan and his wife to go to the cinema or for a meal without catching public attention. “He never told me to wear his hat,” said Deila with a smile at Lennoxtown yesterday. “Maybe I should try and find it!
“Gordon and I had a dinner three weeks ago and it was very nice. As he said, there is no-one who can imagine what being Celtic manager is like unless you have been in the situation yourself.
“It is so good to talk to people with experience. That is also why it is important for young players to talk to experienced players. They can give you 90 per cent of things which tell you that you are doing the right things. Then there is the other 10 per cent which you hadn’t thought about. You think: I should do that this way.
“It gives you confidence that you are on the right track, but also puts new things into your mind.
“To speak to people like Gordon with experience is so good for me. That is why I go around and seek knowledge.
“Gordon was really, really good to talk with. The best thing for me is that he is also very much into coaching. It’s about what you do on the training pitch to get the level up, to get people well organised and in good shape.
“If you do your work 100 per cent, you get the same in matches and that is a philosophy we share. Also, he told me to switch off. To put yourself away from the pressures and find something to do outside of football.”
Switching off for Deila means films but he has also taken up tennis. The Norwegian might be no Andy Murray but he will probably go to watch the Scot when he plays in the Davis Cup at the Emirates Arena across the road from Celtic Park.
“How do I switch off?” he asked. “I work out, that’s important, and I’ve also had some tennis lessons. I have to compete, I love to compete to win. I’m a social person so also to be with my friends and relax and watch movies. I also relax watching football matches and fall asleep after 30 minutes.
“I played a lot of squash but now I have to do something I can improve in. I can’t play football, I hate to play football now, I haven’t kicked a ball since I stopped playing because it can only go one way. So it’s much better to start something you can improve in and it’s tennis. I will go to the Davis Cup to see Andy Murray. I’ve always wanted to watch a top game in tennis because it’s such a high level.”
Deila admits he is already a far different man to the one Celtic hired last June and that he had become bored with working in Norway. “I am much more experienced as a manager than just as a coach,” he explained. “In Norway, I’m more on the pitch doing tasks, but now I manage more. Having so many games, handling pressure, finding ways to switch off. Learning new language and culture. You have to be able to be comfortable in yourself, to deal with loneliness. All of these things, I am better.
“I am so happy I made this move because I was getting bored in the end at Stromsgodset. I knew how things were to be done. Now I have to do it in another environment at a bigger club and it’s been a really good time.
“It’s also been hard, but when you have bad things and you come through them, then you have learned as a person. You also feel stronger. If I went back to Norway now, I’d be a totally different person because I’ve had this experience. The passion for football has excited me most, not only in Celtic but when we played Hearts and Dundee United. It was a good atmosphere. It’s much better than it is in Norway. The people are really passionate about football.”
Meanwhile, County midfielder Filip Kiss has welcomed the upcoming hectic schedule as an opportunity to get out of their predicament at the foot of the Premiership. Second-bottom County fell five points adrift of guaranteed safety at the weekend and although they face Celtic today, they start and finish a six-match run in January against Highland rivals Inverness and the Slovakian midfielder is determined to capitalise on the opportunity to pick up points.
The 24-year-old, who is fully fit after a thigh strain, said: “In my country we had weeks off during Christmas and New Year so this is different but it’s my fourth year in the UK so I have got used to it and I kind of like it. The best way is to be positive – when you lose it’s good to have a game coming up soon and when you win you are on a good run so you want to play again and move up the table. It’s going to be a massive month and every game is going to be massive for our season.”