IT WAS a weekend Ronny Deila will always cherish but it was also one he admits was tinged with a sense of anti-climax. Winning his first Premiership title as Celtic manager while his team were not in action was always likely to dilute his emotional reaction to the achievement.
Deila heard the news of Dundee United’s 1-0 win over Aberdeen last Saturday, which confirmed Celtic as champions for a fourth successive season, while he was back home in Norway preparing to make a speech at his 15-year-old twin daughters’ confirmation ceremony.
We want to develop the culture at the club, we want to develop the players and we want to play attacking football.Ronny Deila
Being happily pre-occupied at that family occasion compensated for the lack of drama surrounding the title success which was in stark contrast to his Norwegian championship triumph with Stromsgodset in 2013.
On that occasion, Deila led his unfashionable club across the finishing line on the final day of the campaign, just one point clear of favourites Rosenborg.
“I have to admit, it wasn’t an unbelievable feeling when I heard the Aberdeen result on Saturday,” reflected Deila.
“After we had beaten Dundee 5-0 on Friday, I was already sure it was going the right way for us. It was a bit different compared to when I did it in Norway on the last day of the season and nobody expected us to be champions.
“It was more controlled with Celtic. You can say it was a bit of an anti-climax. When a club is as dominant as Celtic have been for many years, that’s as it should be.
“The girls’ confirmation was finishing when I knew we had won the title. It was a stressful day as I had been travelling since 3.30am in the morning to get to Norway. But it ended good. There was a lot of emotional stuff, but my speech went OK!”
Deila has been gratified by the significant improvement of his team in terms of consistency and effectiveness in the second half of the season. Having emerged from a torrid first few months of his tenure, he is confident Celtic will maintain their progress.
“I think we have got better and better during the season and hopefully that can continue,” he said. “I have seen so much improvement in the last year. The stats are saying the same. We are plus 15 points after Christmas, we have conceded five goals instead of 12 and have scored 2.2 a game after Christmas compared to 1.69 before. Our possessions stats are high and we are winning games all the time. If we can continue in that tempo then we are going to be very hard to beat.
“You are getting closer to the players and people are clicking all the time. Individually and as a collective we are developing.
“It is very important for me to be very honest with myself and be myself as Celtic manager. I said on the first day that we had goals to win trophies and get to the Champions League.
“We want to develop the culture at the club, we want to develop the players and we want to play attacking football.
“I think we are on our way to doing those things and we were brave to say those things early. But, we are on our way to doing it. We are doing the groundwork now but we are going to build the team even more.”
Deila is also upbeat about the prospects of enhancing his squad for next season as he looks to add to the key members of his current squad he has declared will be staying at Celtic regardless of potential interest from elsewhere. “If we lose one or two players every season it’s not the worst thing,” he added. “But if we lose a lot of players it’s much worse. But then we have to add the right types as well, and develop players from 12 to 25 who can take the next step. Then the consistency and the style of play will make the team better. Then we will grow as a team.”
Deila is especially eager to continue playing a role in the development of Virgil van Dijk after again stating the defender will not be sold this summer. “Virgil is a high class football player and he should go to the best clubs in Europe, not small clubs in England just because they have a lot of money,” said Deila. “That’s what we want, we want to keep him here and develop him until he’s ready for that level. He can still learn a lot here through the Champions League and get more experience and show what a class player he is.
“He has a contract here for many years and we want to improve him and the day that we feel the right move is coming for him, and the money is right, then we have to discuss it.
“But he’s so important for us and I know that he enjoys it every day at Celtic. We have to think of the best interests for the club as well and also for him. It’s no problem for him to go to a Champions League club.
“But he hasn’t experienced everything he can with Celtic yet. If he plays well in the Champions League, then the biggest clubs will come for him. That’s where he should be – not playing for smaller clubs in England.
“I am talking about the big clubs in Europe. In my opinion he has the biggest potential in a defender I have ever seen. That’s not right for a smaller club fighting for relegation.
“He is a good player with the ball, on the ball. He is a good personality as well and his biggest tests have still to come. He will be at the top level in the Champions League if he does the right things. I have told him that and I hope he agreed.”