Those demanding the departure of Ronny Deila as Celtic manager are guilty of a form of “hysteria” and devoid of any historical perspective. That was the unapologetically forceful view expressed yesterday by former Treble-winning captain Tom Boyd as he was made an ambassador of the club alongside another outstanding Celtic servant, David Hay.
Former player and manager Hay spoke of the need for an element of diplomacy in the new role, in whichhe follow in Billy McNeill’s footsteps. Boyd felt no compunction to pull his punches, though. He barely disguised his contempt for those demanding an immediate exit for the Norwegian following last week’s defeats by Aberdeen and Ross County, the latter ending treble hopes while the former allowed the Pittodrie men to move level on points with Celtic at the pinnacle of the Premiership.
The fact that Boyd sees the failings of the current Celtic side through more sympathetic eyes may be related to the inability of the teams he played in during the early 1990s even to be poor runners-up in the championship. Then Rangers were massively outspending all other clubs, yet did not always blow them away – Aberdeen twice finishing within a handful of points on two occasions.
“I have never known, in Scottish football, to have a level of hysteria like this,” said Boyd. “There are calls for the removal of a manager who is sitting at the top of the league, who can possibly win a double. I don’t think that has ever happened in Scottish football. You can enlighten me if I’m wrong. Has there been this same level of criticism of a manager at the top of the league before?’
“People were craving competition in Scottish football. Do people really want that? If the minute you get a close competition you then say, ‘crisis’ for a club sitting at the top of the league, do you really want the competition? From my point of view it’s not the time to be calling for the manager. It’s the time to get behind him, to try and support him, to support the players and the team.”
Yet Deila now has little backing from those that Boyd seeks to rally with the sharpening of knives far keener among Celtic punters than any press. “‘Is sitting at the top of the league not good enough? I know there are fans who feel like that. But at this moment in time I feel it’s an over-reaction. You only have to go back to the days when I first came to this football club and we couldn’t even finish in second place.
“We don’t have a divine right to win every game; to win every league. We should hopefully have a good advantage with the resources we have and we have done it for the last four years on the bounce and are now going for five. We have a good bit of competition this time. One, because the players are not playing at the same level they have in previous seasons – through loss of form and also through injuries. But also we have seen Aberdeen pick up a little bit.”
For Hay – like Boyd, humbled by the honour of his newly-configured status – the pressure being applied to Deila is not specifically driven by domestic events. “I think where the question lies for Ronny is in not making the Champions League. The fact that Celtic are expected to win the league and people talk about trebles – something that is very hard and can be influenced by a cup defeat or a wrong call – makes it hard. But for me not making the group stages of the Champions league is where the scrutiny comes for Ronny.
“As a person I’m sure he wants to do better. Whatever happens next season I’m sure the manager, board, players and fans all want to make the group stages. It’s not happened under Ronny which means that a bad domestic result triggers more criticism.
“In my new position I hope Celtic win games but that’s for Ronny. I don’t make decisions on the Celtic manager. Results dictate whether or not we talk about these things unfortunately.”