CELTIC manager Ronny Deila has insisted he holds no concerns over his players’ social activities in the wake of what he described as the “scary” incident involving goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska this week.
Police Scotland are investigating an alleged assault on Zaluska in the early hours of Monday morning in Glasgow’s west end where a number of other SPFL players were in attendance. The Polish international was left with facial injuries which required hospital treatment.
Zaluska has been able to train fully with the Scottish champions for the last two days and will take his place on the bench tonight as deputy to Craig Gordon for the Uefa Europa League Group D qualifier against Astra Giurgiu at Celtic Park.
Deila expressed his sympathy for Zaluska and offered his full backing to the 32 year old as Celtic await the outcome of the police inquiries.
The Norwegian coach is confident it was a one-off incident and feels no need to lay down guidelines to his players as to when and where they go out during their free time.
“Lukasz is fine,” said Deila. “Of course, he was a bit scared about what happened, but everything is good now. He has trained well for the last couple of days, so he is ready for the game on Thursday night. Mentally, I think there is no problem with him. He is training very well and seems comfortable. I talked to him, of course, about what happened. It is a police case now, I hope they can make it right and we just have to wait and see. Lukasz hasn’t done anything wrong from our perspective. We just have to support him and also feel sorry for him, because that is a hard thing to go through.
“It is not a problem for me if a player wants to go out for dinner and do something social. Of course that is okay. He hasn’t done anything wrong, he was out for dinner and that is perfectly right.
“It could be that going out in Glasgow is different but I have other people in my backroom team with experience of Glasgow. If this kind of thing was happening a lot of times, then I would have to do something about it. But I think this is, hopefully, a one-time situation.”
Asked how he would feel if it was proved that Zaluska was attacked by fellow professional footballers, Deila was unsurprisingly non-committal.
“It’s hard to say,” he replied. “I don’t know what’s behind it and I don’t want to have any opinion about it either before I know what’s happened. Now the police are on the scene and we will take it from there.”
Dundee United announced last night that they had launched an internal investigation into the conduct of two of their players “following information received by the club”.
Mark Wilson, the United defender, then released a statement of his own, saying that he had tried to help Zaluska.
The 30-year-old, who played with the goalkeeper at Celtic, said, through a spokesperson: “There has been a lot of publicity surrounding events on Sunday night in Ashton Lane. Mark Wilson would like to clarify matters regarding himself.
“Mark was out for a meal with his wife and some other couples. On his way home with his wife, they came across his friend and former team-mate Lukasz Zaluska. Mark tried to calm a matter down and latterly to help Lukasz as he was in a distressed situation.”
The Zaluska incident took place in the same district of Glasgow where former Celtic manager Neil Lennon was viciously attacked in 2008, leading to the conviction and two-year jail sentences for his two assailants.
Since relocating to Glasgow from Norway four months ago, Deila’s own experience of the city has happily been more pleasant. “Like I said before, it has been different, of course, to what I am used to,” added Deila. “But I think people are very polite and very positive here.
“Going out for dinner isn’t a problem. Of course some people want a picture or things like that but that’s just what you have to do when you have this job. You meet supporters and people interested in football, that’s fine.
“You learn by experiences. You have to understand the life that you have in the city.
“Players are role models and that is important to think about. But as I know the case with Lukasz now, it is a police case and we will see what happens.”
Celtic hope to strengthen their place at the top of Group D tonight with victory over Romanian Cup holders Astra who are still pointless after their first two matches of the campaign.
One of the success stories of Deila’s tenure so far has been 19-year-old Belgian central defender Jason Denayer whose performances alongside Virgil van Dijk earned his first call-up to his country’s senior international squad this month.
Denayer is on a season-long loan from Manchester City, where he has yet to make his first-team breakthrough, but he has cooled talk that his move to Celtic may become permanent.
“I watched Manchester City play in the Champions League on Tuesday night and I want to be back there next season,” said Denayer. “But I don’t think about this too much. I prefer to think about the present at Celtic. I want to do well enough here to maybe play there.”