THE photographs of a smiling Ronny Deila in the directors’ box at Ibrox last Friday night managed to bring a rare touch of levity to the generally grim state of affairs which exists around Rangers at the moment.
There was a time when a Celtic manager turning up at the Govan stadium would have been the centre of attention. But, amid angry supporter protests against the Rangers’ directors and then the abandonment of the game against Hearts after just 24 farcical minutes, Deila’s presence was little more than an amusing sideshow.
But the Norwegian has revealed there was a time when he enjoyed complete anonymity at Ibrox, paying his way into the ground and getting a full 90 minutes of action for his money.
“I’d only been to Ibrox once before and that was about 15 years ago,” said Deila. “It was just a trip with my friends. I was still a player in Norway at the time and was just with a group of boys having fun in Glasgow. We just sat in the stand like normal guys. You’re not getting me to say it was in the Rangers end, though! I think the game was against Motherwell and Rangers won 3-0.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
“It was nice to be there again on Friday, but the game shouldn’t have been played at all. There was so much snow, they could have gone cross-country skiing instead. But you get a feeling of the team and the stadium as well. They were very nice to us at Rangers on Friday night. It was quite professional, there were no problems for me being there. It was a good atmosphere.”
As a scouting mission ahead of Celtic’s League Cup semi-final showdown with the Ibrox side at Hampden on 1 February, it was of relatively little value to Deila. But he is content he knows more than enough about Rangers as he seeks to manage the growing anticipation ahead of the tie, with the more immediate demands of the Scottish Premiership fixtures at home to Motherwell tomorrow night and away to Ross County on Saturday.
“I still got something out of it, even though the game was abandoned,” added Deila. “I also have assistants who know the Rangers team very well. I also watch their games on TV, so I think we will be well prepared for that game.
“You learn everything from experience and the game against Rangers is going to be a new experience for me. I’m looking forward to it.
“Yes, you get fans telling you how big a game it will be but you get it inside the club as well. You can feel the atmosphere around this game already. But I don’t need to make it bigger than it is. We have to play a football game, that’s the most important thing. If we are going to win it, we have to play good football and that’s what we will prepare for.”
“For me, I know it is a very big game. But we have so many exciting games coming up now. It’s a semi-final and if we win it, we are in a cup final where we want to be.
“The game against Dundee in the Scottish Cup a week later is very important as well.
“The league is close just now, so you can only do one thing – which I’ve done for the last four months – and that is to think just one day ahead. You have to prepare well and see the whole picture. Everything has been very new for me here but it has been more than six months now and I feel much more prepared and confident now than I was when I started.
“I think we have done a lot of things right in the last few weeks. Today has been the first training session where everyone has been available. That’s something I’ve been anxious to get.”
Celtic can reclaim top spot in the league table with a victory tomorrow night after nearest challengers Aberdeen dropped two points in their 3-3 draw at home to Dundee on Saturday.
“That didn’t surprise me,” said Deila. “Aberdeen had a very good run of results and sometimes you get a setback. It’s important for us psychologically now to go back to the top of the league. It’s okay to say we have two games in hand on Aberdeen but you need to get the points on the board.
“When we are top of the league, Aberdeen have to do something to get it back. So we want to have it in our hands and that’s why these next two games are so important in terms of the league.
“It will be a tough game on Wednesday night. Motherwell held us to a draw the last time they came to Celtic Park. That was a very disappointing day for us and it’s something we really want to bounce back from this time.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS