KENNY Dalglish has hit out at suggestions Ronny Deila’s future as Celtic manager could be decided by the outcome of Sunday’s Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden.
Deila’s position at the Scottish champions has been the subject of intense conjecture and debate for much of this season with many observers regarding this weekend’s showdown with Rangers as a must-win fixture for the Norwegian if he is to remain in the job beyond the summer.
It would be unfair if Ronny [Deila] got the sack but it’s not my shoutKENNY DALGLISH
But Celtic legend Dalglish believes it would be an excessive response to dismiss Deila if he suffers defeat against Championship winners Rangers.
Dalglish feels Deila will fulfil his primary requirement for his club by retaining the Premiership title, an outcome which now appears inevitable after Celtic moved eight points clear of Aberdeen at the top of the table with just five matches remaining.
“He’s set out to win the league and he is going to win the league,” said Dalglish. “I don’t know why that is not the only marker for whether he keeps his job.
“That is for other people to decide. But if they decide the league title isn’t enough, it’s a hard call.
“Winning the league is an achievement which shouldn’t be undermined. What decision Celtic want to make after this is up to them. Ronny may even make the decision himself.
“But winning the league is a big marker. It shouldn’t be underestimated. Next year, it might be more difficult with Rangers back in there and four Old Firm games.
“But this year Aberdeen have been good and Hearts haven’t been bad. People take it for granted that Celtic will win the league, but it’s been difficult this year.
“It seems ironic that someone is about to win the league title and people are talking about him getting his P45. The rest of the managers in the league must be terrified. It would be unfair if Ronny got the sack – but it’s not my shout. The only people who can answer where Ronny stands are those at the club.
“Whether there were other targets that were put in place by the club and the manager doesn’t make them, then fine.
“I don’t know what targets Ronny had at the start of the season. But winning the league is a pretty good achievement.”
Dalglish described Celtic’s facile League Cup semi-final win over a dismal Rangers side last season as a “2-0 drubbing”. He expects a more competitive contribution from the Ibrox men on Sunday but insists they are under just as much pressure to win as Celtic, despite still playing in a lower division than the favourites this year.
“There will be disappointment for either side if they lose,” added Dalglish. “You don’t go out there and think about your status before the game. There are always consequences to losing these games. In this one, it will mean you’ve failed to reach a final.
“If you lose, you are not going to feel any better because you have lost as a Championship club, just as you won’t feel worse as a Premiership club if you lose.
“Regardless of what division you are in and what competition you are in, you are beaten by Rangers if you’re Celtic and it’s the same for them. They’ll have been beaten by Celtic. Divisions won’t matter.
“You try to look at the positive, as you must always do. Maybe it’s a good learning curve for the good young players at Rangers and Celtic that you are expected to win, no matter.
“It’s not as simple as that in an Old Firm game. It doesn’t matter your standing, your status, it’s a one-off, an Old Firm game. Everyone is going to understand what it is about and there is no sympathy for whoever loses.
“Rangers have moved forward. They are better now than they were last year. A lot of the stuff off the pitch did start to have an impact on it.
“That’s all behind them now. They are settled and Mark Warburton has them playing a good brand of football. James Tavernier is in double figures for goals from right-back and Lee Wallace has a few on the other side. Rangers know how to play.
“They are a good attacking side and that’s the manager’s principles. He can’t play any other way.
“Will it be a tighter game than last year? Nobody bothers about the performance. It’s about the result. It’s a cup-tie. If you lose you don’t get a second chance.
“Personally I do think Rangers are better but will it be closer? I don’t know. I don’t know where Rangers would be in the Premiership right now. They lost 3-1 to St Johnstone in the League Cup this season and beat Dundee 4-0 in the Scottish Cup. How do you use that as a barometer?
“Celtic struggled against Dundee recently and Rangers beat them 4-0. Does that mean Rangers will win on Sunday? I don’t know. But both teams want to try and play good football. They won’t be playing one-twos with God, the ball will be on the ground more often than not. It’ll be interesting and you look forward to it.”
• Kenny Dalglish was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.