SCOTLAND’S improved fortunes on the international stage are delighting Ronny Deila because they are helping illustrate what he is trying to do at Celtic.
Deila spent the international break in Norway and Spain but watched with interest as Scotland drew 2-2 with Poland on Tuesday. He described himself as “heartened” by Scotland’s strong display since he interpreted it as proof that he is on the right lines with Celtic.
Both Deila and Scotland manager Gordon Strachan are advocates of the 4-2-3-1 system. However, there is little question that Strachan is seeing a better return than Deila at present.
The national coach, who managed Celtic between 2005 and 2009, is benefiting from having a settled team after identifying those he wants to occupy the core positions in his team. Deila’s side is still some way short of the finished article, as the 1-0 defeat to Hamilton Accies on their last outing suggests. The champions have also slipped to sixth place in the Premiership.
But Deila hopes Celtic can take inspiration from Scotland’s performance against Poland when they travel to face Ross County tomorrow in a televised lunchtime kick-off. “This is the way I think it is right to go,” he said.
Deila was forced to launch an impassioned defence of his methods last month. He said he was prepared to return home to Norway if his ways proved unacceptable in Scottish football.
While this was mainly centred on his ideas about diet and fitness, some have also questioned his inflexible views on a 4-2-3-1 formation he is determined to see implemented at Celtic. Under Strachan, Scotland are reaping the benefits of adopting the system although he is open to making tactical tweaks.
“It was fantastic to watch Scotland on Tuesday,” said Deila. “I got energy just from watching the game. The way they played with such confidence on the ball and the way they kept possession to take the energy out of Poland for 60 minutes showed the others in Scotland that it’s possible to go out and dictate games.
“I was very heartened when I saw this and also noticed that Scottish people are proud of their team when they see this. That’s what we want to do at Celtic as well. This is the way I think it is right to go.”
Deila is helped in his aim by knowing that the beating heart of the Scotland midfield, Scott Brown, is also the lynchpin at Celtic. But there are too few others who Celtic fans will view as indispensable. Deila stressed that he plans to have a settled team. “Soon,” he remarked.
“It’s how to develop players so they can play at the top international level,” added Deila. “When you see Scotland, it’s not boys, it’s men. They looked like a team that’s hard to beat.
“I also saw Norway against Bulgaria and the level of that game was not of the level of Poland-Scotland. They [Scotland] had a high tempo against a tough opponent as well. I was happy for Scotland and I think they have a very good chance to go through in that hard group.
“I would hope to have a settled team too soon. You see the relationships and the confidence in the Scotland team. You see Steven Fletcher up top and [Shaun] Maloney behind. The full-backs and wingers all find each other – like the cross to [Ikechi] Anya [for Scotland’s opening goal against Poland].
“You can see the things they are working on in training – the systems,” he added. “They are also calm on the ball in the central area and they all want to have the ball to take out the energy of Poland. I thought Scotland were going to win 3-1 but, in the end, Poland were very strong and Scotland had to keep the ball to see it out. But the result was still fantastic.”
Deila reported no fresh injury worries after the international break although Efe Ambrose, Wakaso Mubarek and Emilio Izaguirre had still to return from duty. The Norwegian will have Charlie Mulgrew, Mikael Lustig, Adam Matthews and Callum McGregor all back from injury, with James Forrest close to a return as well. Deila said: “It’s positive news. James is very close and was training good today. He’s been a long time out so we have to be careful. Almost everybody is available which is very good.”
As well as Brown’s performances for Scotland, Deila was gladdened by Stefan Johansen’s man-of-the-match display for Norway in their victory over Bulgaria in midweek. The manager himself has taken the opportunity to restore his batteries after such a disappointing result in the pre-break game against Hamilton. “I’ve been home in Norway and also had a couple of days in Spain to enjoy the sun,” Deila reported. “We have gone through the [Hamilton] game. Today we trained the players who haven’t played so much and those who played on Sunday and Monday.
“The players who played Tuesday and Wednesday had to rest,” he added. “It was a good session. The players looked happy and there were a lot of good performances from those on international duty as well.”