sHOULD Ronny Deila become only the third manager in Celtic’s history to secure the domestic treble, he would be forgiven for getting T-shirts emblazoned with “I told you so” printed up. The manager who came in at the beginning of the season endured a tough start as he tried to get his squad to buy into what he expected of them, but he always advocated patience.
It wasn’t going to be an overnight transformation, but he believed the wait would be worth it. Already that unwavering approach has delivered the League Cup, while, with six games remaining, the Premiership title is Celtic’s to throw away. If they defeat Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the second of the Scottish Cup semi-finals at Hampden this afternoon, they will move one step closer to domination of the top-level domestic trophies.
For Deila, it will be vindication, but it won’t be a bargaining chip. Should his team achieve the target he set early in the campaign, when it smacked of naivity or bravado, he says it will simply assure him they are laying down the right foundations for what he hopes will be a period of sustained progress and success. He also hopes it will prove the value of patience to an industry where such a virtue is a dwindling commodity.
“Yeah, I dream, but again I just do what I believe and if that makes me, as manager or coach of Celtic, win a treble, then this gives me references that we are going on the right pathway. If not, then I have something to learn. That’s how we want to do it. I really believe we can do it, but we have to stay focused on the minute. Results give you recognition and the energy to create something.
“Hopefully we will get the trophies, but also that people are happy with the way the club is developing off the pitch and on the pitch. I know when we do things right, there will be silverware because the players are good and you get what you deserve in the end. I take that as recognition for very good work by all the staff and the players if we can do it, but still it’s, hopefully, eight games left.”
A man of mettle, the Norwegian is also one of principled beliefs when it comes to the way those in the game should operate. In a team sport, it shouldn’t be about personal gain or individual advancement at the cost of others. Which is why he won’t be battering down the door of chief executive Peter Lawwell’s office, extorting higher wages or an inflated playing budget to barter with. For a man who sees a long-term future with the Parkhead club, there is no desire to adopt a boom-and-bust approach, not when patience and hard work have shown their own rewards.
“No, that pathway is already drawn. I know how I want Celtic Football Department to grow and develop and I will go for that whether we win the treble or two trophies. I will never use my results to get more money. I will do the best for Celtic Football Club. What we have as a budget, I will try to do my best with and create something out of what we have. I know Peter, Dermot [Desmond], everybody, we want to have a lot of money, but the only way to get it is to perform and get into the Champions League and build the club over time. I like to think long term, but it’s not easy in top-level football. I have always been long at clubs. Twelve years in my first club as a player. Only one year in Viking because I was injured and wanted to start practising as a coach and then I was nine years at Stromsgodset.”
At times this term, though, people wondered if he would see out the season. Few expected him to be around come the start of next. But he wants to buck the trend of love-you-and-leave-you management stints. While most coaches move on or are moved on within a couple of years, he wants to finish the job in Glasgow and is talking of a decade-long stay.
“As long as I am developing myself, as long as I go to work enjoying doing it and seeing I can make the club better, I don’t see any reason I shouldn’t [stay for at least a decade]. That’s what gives me energy, to develop and create things and win trophies. To see people grow and see cultures building, that’s something that gives me so much pleasure.”
He insists that chopping and changing managers or overspending in the hope of a quick fix is not the way to achieve that.
“You get very cynical when it’s like this because the manager is just thinking of themselves, going to the board and saying I need ‘x’ amount of money to create something, and then he buys the players he wants. He doesn’t think about the club, how you are going to get it to grow.
“Then, maybe, he gets successful, then he goes away, and the club has a financial problem afterwards, or he is not successful and gets sacked and the club has two problems: economy and that they don’t have a manager. Every team that has good success, they have consistency. If you go to the Champions League, the teams that succeed have kept their team for five years on average and also the managers have been there for a while and have good experience. To be patient is important, but it’s very hard in an environment when the fans and everybody have high expectations. You have to think short term but also long term.”
The fear at the start of Deila’s Scottish stint was that the Norwegian did not comprehend the importance of the short-term demands in allowing him to undertake his long-term plans.
But he apparently understood perfectly, and now stands on the brink of joining the club’s managerial greats.