THERE won’t be a whole lot of love at Pittodrie this afternoon. The ban for racially abusing Aberdeen’s Shay Logan, which Celtic winger Aleksandar Tonev has appealed, will make sure of that. Shows of affection from the visiting supporters towards their manager, Ronny Deila, need not be in short supply, however.
They have been missing for much of his up-and-down, five-month tenure at the club, but fans who travelled to Giurgiu in Romania for Celtic’s 1-1 draw with Astra in the Europa League three days ago, sung the Norwegian’s name with gusto. Deila doesn’t attempt to be cool over what might be a breakthrough in getting the club’s faithful onside.
“That was nice,” he says. “That’s always a sign you have done something right, and that’s positive. It is important we grow together with the fans because we play for the fans and we play for the club, of course, and the fans are the club. We need to be a unit and I’m very happy that against Astra the fans were so fantastic.”
A packed-out, pumped-up Pittodrie will be “what you train for, why you are here,” says Deila. He is also sanguine over the possibility that the ill-feeling created by the Tonev case could spill over this afternoon. Yet, even without the Bulgarian’s “excessive misconduct” – as it was deemed by the judicial panel that landed the 24-year-old with a seven-game ban – there will be no spirit of detente between the clubs.
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Aberdeen winger Johnny Hayes lit the touchpaper this week by claiming that there is no longer a “fear” playing Celtic because “since Rangers have weakened” so have the Scottish champions.
“I would say Celtic have taken their foot off the gas, but the league is a lot easier for them. They have sold some players and have not invested as much as they might have done had Rangers been in the league.”
In the early part of the season, as results undulated, the recruitment of Deila was being damned by unhappy Celtic fans as one aspect of this downsizing. The 39-year-old is not a man to take pops at other players or managers, and simply seems bemused by Hayes’ assertion.
“I don’t follow him on that, but it’s his words,” the Deila says. “What we are aiming is to push hard and get up the tempo in every game and finish them in a good way as well.
“We have progressed a lot in that, you saw that against Astra as well. It’s not seven guys working hard, it’s 11, and that’s what you need to get a good team. We want to be a very direct team, we want to be an aggressive team and keep up the intensity and I think when we get that right he [Hayes] will think otherwise.”
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