Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell admits the club took a risk in appointing Ronny Deila as manager – but he feels the Norwegian’s first title win can be a launch pad to lasting success.
Deila was a relative unknown in Scotland before being installed as Neil Lennon’s successor last summer. But the Norwegian had led unfashionable Stromsgodset to the title in his native land and Lawwell was persuaded to take the bold step after interviewing the then 38-year-old. Speaking after Celtic clinched the championship at the weekend, Lawwell told Celtic’s website: “Clearly, as part of my job, you need to be aware of what’s going on in the football world and we knew about Ronny and what he had and what he achieved, and the skills and attributes he had, so when we were looking for a manager he was on the list.
“We met him, he was very, very impressive and although some would think we took a risk – which we probably did – we felt that he was an ideal candidate for Celtic and he fitted really well with our strategy, which is to create a winning, entertaining football team, to create football players, to create a team, a backroom staff and develop players, and he’s been fantastic.
“So he has done remarkably well. I’m really confident for the future that, after this first year, he now has a foundation. He’s a winner, he’s a champion and there will be a solid foundation to take this club forward.”
The wisdom of the gamble was initially not so clear. Celtic were knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers twice – once by Legia Warsaw and then by Slovenians Maribor after the Polish champions were punished for fielding a suspended player. And they dropped ten points in their opening eight league games as Deila tried to introduce a pressing game.
Lawwell said: “The challenge is that, here at Celtic, nothing prepares you for the Celtic job. You really need to be in it before you know what it means and the demands of it, so he had to deal with that. He had to deal with creating and developing the team while, at the same time, having to win every week.”
Lawwell added: “Hopefully we’ll be able to go into the Champions League stronger than we are at the moment.
“We’ve got a very strong squad and a lot of great young players coming through but our intention is, in positions where we feel we can strengthen, that we’ll do that over the summer.
“It’s never easy. We have to do it within our financial constraints. Timing is an issue – we need to get players in, preferably, before the qualifiers, but normally you can see in transfer windows that most of the business is done at the end.
“So these are the challenges, we’ve been planning for them, we face them. We’ve got a lot of experience in terms of dealing with these sorts of circumstances, but I’m really confident.”