Ronny Deila has won his last two games and yet the pressure seems to be intensifying further on the Celtic manager.
Former Celtic favourite and successful manager Neil Lennon has become available, while Malky Mackay and David Moyes haven’t exactly adhered to the code of managers by each expressing an interest in the job were it to become available.
The way some onlookers discuss the future of Celtic’s boss would make you think he was some sort of lame duck manager with an exit this summer a complete inevitability, despite there being no inkling from the club’s board that they are ready to end this experiment.
An experiment is exactly what the hiring of Deila was. Through the use of hindsight many have derided the appointment as the “cheap option”. While that might be the case, since none of us have access to the details of Ronny’s weekly wage packet, for the board it was more about trying something different while the opportunity was there to do so. They reasoned, even if Deila bombed, that they would still win two league titles and that would ensure two cracks at the Champions League. Picking a relative unknown on the continent and watching him flourish at Celtic Park had worked so well with regards to player recruitment, at least until the last couple of seasons, so why not give it a shot with managers?
Even if the board continue to look upon Deila in a positive light, they will still be concerned by the regression of Celtic’s on-field powers between the second half of his first season and the team’s form in 2016. Discontent among the support is another factor. The last thing the Parkhead chiefs want is to be stung in the pocket when season ticket renewal time rolls around.
The fact remains Deila is not out of a job yet. And while he’s still in position, he’ll have the opportunity to keep his job into next season. So what does he need to do before decision time?
Win the double
This goes without saying. Lose the league to Aberdeen and there seems no conceivable way he’ll still be around for another go at it. The same goes for a Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers. Under other circumstances, you could say he would maybe get away with losing the cup final to Dundee United, Hibs or Inverness, but even that’s not likely after such a disappointing season. Besides, it’s the last game of the season. Not only would it leave a bad taste in the mouth of supporters who’ve already critiqued Deila’s mix of ingredients to be unworthy of feeding a starving dog, it will also be the match that sits at the forefront of the board’s mind when it comes to deciding his future.
End with a flourish
Winning the double may not be enough if they limp over the line. This time last year Celtic fans were energised by watching their team. Now, even in victory, there’s a lethargy that hangs in the air. To re-energise and re-engage the support the performances have to improve. Teams need to come to Celtic Park and fear the worst, not be licking their lips in anticipation of an upset.
Comfortably defeat Rangers
When defeat is unacceptable, then squeaking by with a 1-0 score-line isn’t going to pacify anyone. Supporters may be willing to go with another season of Deila if they get some hard evidence they remain well ahead of Rangers. Should the Ibrox side give them a tough time, however, it’ll make them fear the worst. That a little investment in the summer could see Rangers eclipse Deila’s side in their first season back, which would be torturous for your average Celtic fan around the work places of Glasgow.
Retain a consistency in team selection
Though injuries have played a part, this season there’s barely been one week to the next where Celtic’s team has remained the same. It’s not an excuse for disjointed performances, but it is a reason. Deila seems to have understood this over the last two games, going with a full strength side against Morton and retaining 10 of the selections, with one enforced change, for the trip to Partick Thistle. He needs to get some consistency going. That will make some fringe players unhappy, but at this stage their huffiness can’t be his concern.
Promise a deadwood clear-out
He’s done this already but it’s something worth reiterating. A stick to beat Deila with has been his bizarre stock-piling of attacking midfielders, as if he’s a soccer hipster playing Football Manager rather than leading a major club. He could be conducting an experiment of his own, but it’s certainly not worked. The Scott Allan signing has been indicative of this. While last season’s Championship player of the year has not been great, he’s never had the chance to get a consistent run in the side. After all, one sub-par performance brings five other players knocking on the manager’s door.
Admit prior mistakes
His constant “judge me on <insert future event>” has been a source of mirth for supporters of opposing fans. Deila always looks forwards and therefore ignores or dismisses prior mishaps. There will be some supporters who’ll never regain faith in him until he achieves a Champions League group place. Even then he’d likely have to excel in it. However, he could get a sizeable number back onside by showing a little humility, explaining where he went wrong and how this won’t happen in the future.
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