Ronny Deila made sacrifices for Celtic dream

Celtic manager Ronny Deila, on the touchline during Wednesday's match against                                        St Johnstone, had to make tough sacrifices in moving to Parkhead.  Picture: Reuters
Celtic manager Ronny Deila, on the touchline during Wednesday's match against St Johnstone, had to make tough sacrifices in moving to Parkhead. Picture: Reuters
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FROM the moment he was plucked from relative obscurity to become Celtic manager in June, there has been a sense Ronny Deila is a man who tends to land on his feet.

The first few weeks of his tenure, with a club record-equalling 6-1 European aggregate defeat by Legia Warsaw dramatically overturned by Uefa, have only strengthened the impression that the Norwegian is a man who enjoys more than his fair share of good fortune.

But while Deila sets out to make the most of the opportunity to enhance his coaching reputation in such a high-profile job, there is a personal price to be paid.

As the 38-year-old prepares for what he says will be one of the biggest moments of his life today, taking charge of the Scottish champions at Celtic Park for the first time when they face Dundee United, he has opened up on the heart-wrenching choice he had to make for the sake of his professional ambitions.

Deila has the names of his 14-year-old twin daughters, Thale and Live, tattooed along his right arm. Now separated from their mother Bjorgunn, he had to accept leaving them behind when he accepted the challenge Celtic offered him.

“My family haven’t come with me,” said the disarmingly frank Deila during a wide-ranging and revealing interview on the eve of his home debut in his new job.

“I am not together with the mother of my children. I am single now and my two kids wanted to stay in Norway. They will visit me when they have a vacation and I’ll go see them whenever there is an international break.

“It’s been the hardest thing about coming here, it’s very hard. When you do this, you sacrifice everything. They wanted me to do this, though, and I couldn’t say no. They knew I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t come here.

“But ask any big manager if they made sacrifices and they’ll all say yes. This is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s 24 hours a day, thinking all the time. You can say you’re going home but you’re always doing the job, thinking about it in your mind. There are so many decisions to make all the time that it has to be that way.

“But with my kids I asked them what they thought about me coming here, I asked them if it was okay with them. They saw in my face, though, that they couldn’t say no. I think I manipulated them pretty well! But they are proud of me, I can see that. They are 14 years old and very active, playing handball and football too. Their mother is fantastic with them as well so I know they will be having a good time.”

Deila believes he is adapting well to his new environment, although he has quickly discovered that anonymity is not an option for the manager of Celtic as he strives to balance his professional life with the need for some relaxation.

“I have gone out for dinner a couple of times,” he said. “Three weeks ago, I was outside waiting for a taxi to go home and decided to go into the nearest pub to get a beer. I now realise I shouldn’t do that!

“Everyone was very polite but it was too much. I was there for 15 minutes and everyone was very friendly but it was too much. People wanted to talk to me about Celtic and have their picture taken with me and things like that. It was okay, you get used to that. It’s fantastic that it’s so positive. Nothing has been negative. People tell me they want me to succeed and the Celtic supporters have been amazing.

“It’s been a tough few weeks but at the same time I’ve felt like I’m living. I’m learning too. Before (at Stromsgodset) I was working automatically but now I have to push myself to new limits. That’s why I am here and I know I can cope with it. It has been hard but every day has been fantastic also.

“Everywhere I go, it’s new. Every person I meet, they’re new. I need to get a routine and then find holes to relax in. I don’t want to find I’m just spinning around in the washing machine. You have to come out of it sometimes to reflect. If you are a leader you need to reflect. You need time by yourself to see the next step, and you have to always be a step ahead. It’s been hard in the beginning but over time it will become easier.

“One of the things I do to take time out is go running. I also like being with friends and talking with them. I have people from Norway visiting me at the moment and that’s good because I’m a social person. I have also got my golf clubs now and have been trying to use them at the course next to where I am staying. Other than that, I just like to relax and watch television, but that’s something I haven’t done for seven weeks. I also haven’t gone to see a movie.

“My first impressions of Glasgow are that people here are unbelievably interested in football. I am sick of seeing Sky Sports – you see it everywhere you go! It’s like news 24 hours a day all about football, not like in Norway.

“But the people are very warm, very open and genuine. Celtic supporters are like a family. It’s like you are born to be a Celtic supporter. It really means something and it’s huge for me to see that.”

Deila’s home bow in front of those fans has been delayed because of the stadium’s part in the Commonwealth Games and he is eager to savour the occasion this afternoon as last season’s Premiership flag is unfurled by former owner Fergus McCann before kick-off.

“It’s huge for me personally, unbelievable,” he said. “You feel the expectations of course. And you just want to make these people happy. You get that picture in your head.

“I said many times it’s my dream - to play fantastic football against good teams in a full stadium. Money is nothing compared to that. Trophies are nothing compared to that. It’s the ultimate experience and it’s what I have in my mind.

“I was at Celtic Park when I was announced as manager but Thursday this week was the first time I walked out of the tunnel onto the pitch. I wanted to see it, to look at the dressing rooms, just to sample it and familiarise myself with it.

“For me, there have been a lot of new experiences already. You come to a new country, a new language, a new city. You come to a new staff and new players and you have to cope with that. Everywhere you go is a new place. Even going to your stadium and playing in front of 60,000 people.

“These things are what you have to prepare for in your mind and be ready for. At times it’s like nothing you have ever experienced. Other times it’s like ‘no problem’ and you don’t think about it. So I have to prepare for everything happening around me.

“It’s like new players coming here. It’s not easy to just come in and perform well. You have to feel as if you are safe and familiar and know the situation and what is around you. I’m looking forward to it.”