John Collins has praised the grace under pressure displayed by Celtic manager Ronny Deila in recent weeks, revealing his boss has remained “chilled” despite the intense scrutiny and criticism he has received.
Deila took a break from his weekly media duties yesterday, allowing assistant manager Collins to step in.
For the Norwegian, it was a rare step away from the unforgiving spotlight surrounding his role which he has unflinchingly faced up to during one of the most testing periods yet of his tenure.
Elimination from the League Cup at the hands of Ross County and a Premiership defeat at closest title rivals Aberdeen prompted widespread questioning of Deila’s ability to take Celtic forward.
“He has handled it really well,” said Collins. “I’ve been really impressed by how he has dealt with it all. He has been very, very calm. He doesn’t get too high or too low. The demands at Celtic have been new for him, but he has coped admirably.
“He’s chilled. He knows it comes with the territory. We aren’t going to change it, so you just have to go with the flow.
“That is a huge strength of Ronny’s. Because if you let it get to you, eat away at you and get angry, it is no good for anyone. It certainly doesn’t help us. It is better we get it than the players.
“As every month goes by, he gets stronger, he knows what is coming, he knows how to deal with situations. You learn from experiences and handle criticism. No-one likes getting criticism, everyone likes getting praise. But you get used to it here.
“We all feel it together as a coaching staff. Ronny is the one who gets it but we all feel it – we are a team. He is up at the front, taking it on the chin but we all feel it with him. We are together. But we also get the rewards together, when we are picking up cups and leagues. We take the bad stuff but we take the good stuff as well.”
The prospect of Deila lifting the Premiership trophy again in May were enhanced this week when Aberdeen lost 3-1 at Inverness on Monday night. It leaves Celtic three points clear of the Dons at the top of the table with a game in hand.
Derek McInnes’ men are now under pressure to win at Partick Thistle tonight or face losing further ground when Celtic are at home to Inverness tomorrow afternoon.
“I thought Aberdeen would win on Monday,” admitted Collins. “They were everyone’s favourites because they were on such a good run. But you never get an easy game against Inverness, so the result didn’t really surprise me that much.
“Aberdeen have had an exceptional season, so they deserve all the credit they have received. They have made good signings and kept their best players. No-one has dismantled their team like has happened to Dundee United. That’s why Aberdeen are close to us at the top.
“Our objective is to kick on now and we have players who have been over the course of winning the title before. But you also have to say that questions have been asked of the Aberdeen lads for six months now and they have answered them.”
Celtic could welcome playmaker Kris Commons back from a month-long absence this weekend, with the 32-year-old now recovered from injury and illness.
He rejoins a first-team squad Collins claims is now fitter than ever as a result of recent changes to the medical and sports science staff made by Deila. They have included the appointment of his compatriots Bard and Grete Homstol as head of performance and performance specialist respectively.
Grete Homstol has also been promoted to the role of matchday physiotherapist, although her predecessor Tim Williamson remains on the staff.
“Ronny wanted to bring something different to the table,” explained Collins. “So he brought in Bard and Grete and added to what we had. He made it bigger, it has grown, and the fruits are now there for everyone to see.
“We had 23 first-team squad players on the training pitch today. The results are there, so that’s very pleasing. It’s what every club in the world wants.
“There is a different approach, it’s more hands-on. There is lots of work on the muscles. It’s hard, painful stuff for the players. The medical staff are stretching them, getting deep into the tissue before and after training.
“They all have programs to do, before and after. It’s preventative stuff. That’s the secret. It’s about keeping them balanced and strong.
“Every player questions change. They ask ‘why, what’s the purpose?’. But you have to go with the flow and thankfully the change has been better. The proof is in the pudding.
“James Forrest hasn’t been injured for a long time now, for example. The last thing you want is a treatment room full of injured players when you are paying them salaries and they’re not playing.
“The ideal scenario and dream for every club is to have fewer injuries. So we try everything possible, every method, to avoid them.”