Ronny Deila targets trophy treble at Celtic

John Guidetti opened his Celtic scoring account against Hearts and earned praise from manager Ronny Deila afterwards. Picture: SNS

John Guidetti opened his Celtic scoring account against Hearts and earned praise from manager Ronny Deila afterwards. Picture: SNS

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SO FAR, Ronny Deila has been unable to win even three games in a row as Celtic manager. But he already has his sights firmly fixed on a far more momentous form of treble.

Given the uncertain start to his tenure, publicly declaring his intention to collect all three domestic trophies in his first season may appear as rash as it is ambitious.

After all, it was a feat which eluded two of his most successful recent predecessors in the job, Gordon Strachan and Neil Lennon, and has historically proved to be a rare achievement.

In the 68 seasons since the introduction of the League Cup made it possible, the treble has been won just ten times – for Rangers by Bill Struth (1949), Scot Symon (1964), Jock Wallace (1976 and 1978), Walter Smith (1993), Dick Advocaat (1999) and Alex McLeish (2003), with only Jock Stein (1967 and 1969) and Martin O’Neill (2001) managing it for Celtic.

After watching his team produce some of their most effective football yet in the 3-0 win over Hearts on Wednesday night which took them into the last eight of the League Cup, Deila outlined his desire to add his name to that illustrious list.

Celtic have dropped seven points in their first six Premiership fixtures this season, leaving them five points off the top of the table ahead of tomorrow’s lunchtime visit to St Mirren.

Deila, however, has no doubts they are capable of stringing a telling run of consecutive victories together as he sets them the target of a domestic grand slam.

“We want some momentum now,” said Deila. “We want to win as many games in a row as possible. The team are capable of winning ten games in a row, or something like that, but I’m not saying we are definitely going to do it right now.

“What I will say is that we are definitely going to win the league. The goal is the treble. In the cups, everything can happen, but we have to set high demands and high goals. We will see in the end how that goes.”

Celtic managed only their fourth shutout in 14 games under Deila on Wednesday and their first in nine matches. The Norwegian recognises the significance of establishing greater solidity at the back in tandem with the high energy pressing tactics he demands in other areas of the pitch. “It was important to keep a clean sheet against Hearts,” he added. “Psychology is important in football. We hadn’t kept a clean sheet for a while, so that was important.

“What was good was the team performance defensively. The front players worked hard, together as a team. The structure of the team was good and that’s why we had a lot of counter-attacks and chances.

“There is a better balance in the team now but everything takes time and I have to keep saying that. I think you can see what we are after. You see quick reactions in defence, that we want 11 players to work together and be compact, with high pressure as well.

“In the end, that will make us fitter and stronger. We will also have the ball more. Now we also have to develop a pattern of play so we can open up defences, like we did in the first half against Hearts.

“I felt comfortable on Wednesday night. I felt like that was how I want to see my team play. Of course, there is more progress we can make now but I think the structure is better defensively and we know it is going to be hard for other teams to beat us.

“John Guidetti was good against Hearts and scored his first goal for us. Jason Denayer has been good in defence for a long time, Craig Gordon has come in as goalkeeper and is doing well. We played Anthony Stokes wide, in front of Emilio Izaguirre, and I saw some good movements there. There are a lot of positive things.

“I think there has been a good relationship among the strikers for a long time. Anthony and Kris Commons have a good relationship. You can also see that Stefan Johansen and Scott Brown have a good relationship.

“But relationships between two players are one thing. When we get good relationships with sets of three players, things will get really good for us. But that takes time and a different style of play from what they are used to. We work on it every day.

“The foundation on Wednesday was good. I also liked the way Hearts played. They came to Celtic Park and had an offensive pattern in their heads. They knew they were going to get trouble, but they did it anyway to try and get something from the game.

“They will take that back to the Championship and develop. You are going to see next season when they come up, and I think they will, that they have a pattern they are used to which helps them control games.”

Deila is encouraged by the positivity among his players as he knits a reshaped squad together following the closure of the transfer window last month.

“I really like the atmosphere in our dressing room,” said Deila. “It’s been like that ever since I’ve been here. Some of the boys have been here many years and they are good boys. They want to get good results for Celtic.

“You need a good environment and we have that. For the new signings, they have only been here three weeks – maybe only two if you take the international break into account – so we need to breathe a bit and let them settle in.

“It is important to have a social time with the players but it’s not so easy with games all the time. I’d rather go to training than go paint-balling. When you are working so hard, it’s important to have a day off sometimes as well. So it’s very hard to push them but not push them too hard. Because I’m not a very patient guy. That’s how it is.

“But things take time and the players need to breathe. So far, they have a good balance with that.

“I’m so lucky to have a team that is so good individually. So in the end, it’s about our performances. If we play well, we know we are going to cause problems for every other team in Scotland. They know we are a better team as well. That’s why I focus most of all on my team.”

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