A keen sense of humour is an important facet in any well-rounded personality and Ronny Deila is seldom found wanting in that department.
At the start of a pre-match press conference where renewed pressure on his own position was inevitably going to be on the agenda following Sunday’s League Cup semi-final defeat, the Celtic manager found time to enjoy a laugh at his inquisitors’ expense.
Asked about the deadline day signing of Colin Kazim-Richards, whose combustible and chequered past saw him attract headlines most recently for threatening a Dutch journalist who had criticised his attitude while playing for Feyenoord, Deila could not resist a mischievous jab at the assembled members of Scottish football’s fourth estate.
“You know why I brought him in – you saw the last story about him!,” said Deila. “I’ll maybe not be here, but he will be with you!”
On a more serious note, the 18-month contract handed to Kazim-Richards is fresh evidence of the backing Deila continues to receive from the Celtic board as he plots what he hopes will be a third shot at qualifying for the Champions League this summer.
The now closed transfer window also saw him add Danish international defender Erik Sviatchenko and highly-touted Manchester City teenage winger Patrick Roberts to his squad.
It is the acquisition of Kazim-Richards which has captured most of the attention, however, given the 29-year-old striker’s previous misdemeanors which include being found guilty of abusive or insulting behaviour for making a homophobic gesture towards fans of former club Brighton while playing for Blackburn Rovers.
But Deila insists the decision to sign Kazim-Richards was taken after extensive research into and consideration of the Turkish international’s character. Indeed, the Celtic manager believes he can prove to be a positive role model to the club’s younger players.
“Yes, it’s true there are things he has done but I’ve had players before and have players now who have stories from their past,” said Deila. “I talked a lot with him before we signed him.
“I also spoke to a lot of people who had him and played with him. I talked to him myself when he came to Glasgow last week. His wife was with him as well and we had a good talk. I did a lot of research on him. He is a fantastic boy and has a great personality with a lot of confidence.
“I trust what I saw and heard. I think all good players sometimes have a bit of a special personality. It just needs to be controlled in the right way. We talked about this when Nadir Ciftci came to the club. People said he was a hard man to deal with because of things he had done before. But he hasn’t had any issues at Celtic.
“What I like about Kazim is that he works hard on the pitch. He is very aggressive and very good at holding the ball up. But he has a personality and to play for Celtic, you need a personality. You can talk about them eating properly, doing everything right off the pitch and in training, but they also need to be able to deal with playing at Celtic Park and in front of the Celtic fans.
“I think he has a personality which can help the youngsters, to say ‘Hey, come on, we are going out to win this game’. That’s also a role he had a year ago at Feyenoord.
“In European games he played last year for Feyenoord he played very, very well. He is also used to being at clubs like this. When you have been with Fenerbahce, Galatasaray, Olympiacos and Feyenoord, then you know how big clubs work.”
Kazim-Richards and 18-year-old Roberts both went straight into the Celtic squad which travelled to Aberdeen yesterday for tonight’s Premiership fixture at Pittodrie.
“I’m happy with the transfer window, I got what I wanted,” added Deila. “We said before that we wanted to be stronger after the window and also to get some experience.”
On the back of Sunday’s Hampden defeat to Ross County, Deila is under fresh scrutiny tonight as Celtic bid to extend or preserve their six-point lead over Aberdeen at the top of the table.
“What people have to understand is that the most disappointed man after Sunday is the one sitting here,” he said. “But I’ve lost games before, big games – it’s only seven or eight months since it happened last time.
“We have to get on with it and bounce back again. The best athletes and coaches go on and turn it around, they don’t go on losing and losing. Everybody can be a manager when things are going well. It’s when things are going bad, that’s when you show what’s in you.
“It’s a big test for us against Aberdeen but we have so much to play for. If we win this game, it is going to be so hard for them to catch us again.”
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