CELTIC manager Ronny Deila has issued a robust defence of his assistant John Collins’ withering analysis of Scotland’s other top-flight clubs and claims Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes is “stupid” to take offence at the comments.
Collins sparked a row by claiming Scottish teams do not possess “clever enough players or quick enough thinkers” to punish Celtic in comparison to their European opponents.
You get tested more defensively in the Champions League and you get punished more for mistakes. That’s not to disrespect Scottish football, it’s just truth.Ronny Deila
McInnes was quick to hit back at the Celtic No 2, saying the remarks were “disparaging” and “disrespectful”. But Deila, who insisted Collins was simply outlining an obvious truth, suggested McInnes is guilty of hypocrisy as he had declared last month that no domestic side would test Aberdeen more than the Croatian outfit Rijeka they faced in the second qualifying round of the Europa League.
“He [McInnes] should call me if he is angry about it,” said Deila. “If it is hard to say that it is harder to play in the Champions League and that you get punished more there than you do in the Scottish league, then McInnes can be as angry as he wants for me. Because that is just stupid. It is a truth he said himself about the team from Croatia. He can call me if it’s a problem.
“What I can say is that, if anyone calls John Collins disrespectful, then they don’t know John Collins. He is the most respectful guy I ever met in my life. His values are unbelievable.
“You have to be honest and tell it how it is to the fans and everyone else.
“It is such a stupid thing to discuss. If all the coaches in Scotland sat down and discussed this, we would not argue. But, because we are making an issue of this, it is just a circus.
“Everyone knows it is tougher to play in the Champions League than it is to play in the Scottish Premiership.
“It is also tougher to play in the Champions League than it is to play in the Norwegian League, Swedish League, Danish League or whatever. You get tested more defensively in the Champions League and you get punished more for mistakes. That’s not to disrespect Scottish football, it’s just truth.
“We meet the best teams in Europe. I think Derek McInnes agrees – he said that the team they played from Croatia tested them like no other team has done. This is creating a conflict that is not there.”
Aberdeen’s elimination from the Europa League by Kairat Almaty of Kazakhstan last week yet again left Celtic as Scotland’s sole representatives for the group phase of Uefa club competitions.
Deila’s men face Malmö in the Champions League Play-Off round and are guaranteed Europa League group stage football even if they lose to the Swedish champions. But the Celtic boss believes Scottish football will continue to struggle to make a greater impact in Europe as long as the current domestic schedule remains in place.
“It’s important players at Aberdeen, Celtic, Dundee United or wherever get as much experience in Europe as possible and players into the national team,” added Deila. “You don’t learn if you don’t play international or European football. It’s the same for the coaches. But it’s hard to play matches abroad because there are so many games in Scotland. If we had less games, then we could go and play in different countries. We could play friendlies and get new knowledge about what is going on. It’s so important to have your eyes and ears open to new things.
“If we don’t get teams into the Europa League or the Champions League then you will struggle even more to reach that tempo because you don’t know what it is.
“It’s very hard to get into the group stages and that’s what we are experiencing now. We struggled to beat a team from Azerbaijan and Aberdeen lost to a team from Kazakhstan.
“St Johnstone and Inverness went out also. We have to understand we are not a big nation but we have to stay together and develop as well as possible.”