WHERE Ronny Deila comes from, a winter break is pretty much a necessity, in any walk of life.
It is not just the football which shuts down at this time of year in Norway, even the ordinary citizens will escape the snow and the ice by flying south for sunshine.
Deila usually opts for Christmas in Brazil but the Celtic manager admitted yesterday that he would prefer his players to be free from football for three weeks to avoid burnout. Celtic head to Tannadice tomorrow to face Dundee United for the latest match in a schedule which began last July but Deila fears that midfielders Scott Brown and Stefan Johansen could play 70 times this season, once international commitments are thrown in.
Celtic have already been pro-active on that issue, by postponing their match on 10 January with St Johnstone so they can go to the Canary Islands for a week’s training camp. “This is the first time since July we’ve been able to train three days in a row,” explained Deila. “We need more of this.”
The Norwegian insisted he has no need of a winter break, just his players. “Not for me,” he said. “Every game is like Christmas. Everything is new. My motivation is so high. I worked straight through so it will be one and a half years.
“I think the players would benefit, though. You have to think about the national team players. If they play every game and we go through to both cup finals and do more in Europe, Scott Brown, Charlie [Mulgrew] or Stefan [Johansen] will play in 70 games.
“Then you are on the edge of what people can handle. You want the performances, but how can you perform when every third day you never get a day off? You will then have a dip. To keep the level up it’s okay to have a break in the middle of the season. The players are professional though, so it’s no problem to have three weeks off in the summer as they need it. It’s a challenge with the Champions League coming so soon.”
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Deila’s family will fly into Glasgow to spend their Christmas holidays in Scotland, rather than the perennial Samba destination that the Celtic manager prefers. “The last six years, I’ve spent Christmas in Brazil,” he said.
“I’d been before and then had a friend who sold me an apartment. We had beaches full on Christmas. It was like a summer vacation. Also, if you stay home, you always think of work. So Brazil was the real vacation. My kids were also there, so it’s going to be good because they are coming with my parents and will be here for 14 days. They’ve been here before. At the Hamilton game.”
If the Hamilton defeat was the nadir of Celtic’s Premiership campaign, the peak was the 6-1 defeat of Dundee United at Celtic Park in August. “Dundee United attacked us that day and that opened up things for us,” the manager said. “We also scored four goals from set plays. I think if you go through goal chances we had eight and we scored six. So we were very effective. In the last four, five, six games, we’ve had ten to 15 chances in every game. So if you see behind the result I think we’ve improved, although we haven’t been so effective as we were in that United game.”
For Scott Brown, Tannadice will always hold a place in his heart. That was where Celtic won the title in 2008. “We won the league there at the end of my first season so it will always hold special memories because of that,” said Brown
“The thing I remember most was myself and Aiden McGeady putting our boots out of the window for the fans. It’s a special place as you always remember your first title. That night is up there with any I’ve had here. Going back on the bus to Celtic Park, it was one of those occasions that you’ll always remember.
“It was emotional too as Tommy Burns had just died. It was a hard period for the club. “We always remember what Tommy did for the club. I always spoke with him via texts and phone calls when I first signed. He did a lot for me and will always be remembered here.
“Every Celtic fan can remember outside Celtic Park after he did go and all the flags, scarves and strips. There were even Rangers strips there as well, which showed you what kind of man he was. His pictures are up on the walls here and always will be.”
Brown expressed an admiration for his Dundee United midfield counterpart, Stuart Armstrong, who has been linked with a move to Celtic. “He’s a great player,“ said Brown. “He works hard and always wants the ball. That’s the main thing. Especially in Scotland, people can go hiding and don’t want it.
“He’s a big-game player and he always seems to do really well against us. He’s aggressive, strong and is direct as well. That’s what I like about him.”
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