AS THE time careers towards his first final as Celtic manager, Ronny Deila is feeling calm. “Maybe too much,” the Norwegian said yesterday. Yet he has a sense that being able to take an occasion such as the League Cup decider in his stride means he really has eased into the rhythm of life at the club he joined nine months ago.
“We have so many big matches you get used to it. If this had been a small club the cup final would be totally crazy. I have seen that in Norway, where we only have one cup, it is the last game of the season and is alway sold out.
“Crazy things like ‘Who is going to sit beside the King?’ That’s how it is with small clubs,” said Deila, who led modest side Stromsgodset to success in that competition five years ago.
“But this club has done it so many times [that] it’s very calm. We just prepare for what’s ahead of us and I think we can feel in the atmosphere of the players there is a big game coming up. We can reach one of our targets and that’s important.”
Celtic have no earthly reason to feel blase about their showpiece with Dundee United in two days’ time. If there is one thing they haven’t done “so many times” of late, it is lift the League Cup. The club have only annexed that trophy five times in the past 32 years.
No other piece of Scottish silverware has proved so elusive to the Glasgow side. In little under the past two decades, they have won twice as many titles and Scottish Cups.
The failure of their League Cup haul to reflect their domestic dominance is why Deila is bidding to bring only a fourth treble to the club and join Jock Stein and Martin O’Neill as the only Celtic managers to achieve the clean sweep .
Even by simply winning on Sunday he will post an achievement that proved beyond his immediate predecessors, Neil Lennon and Tony Mowbray.
“It is something we would remember for the rest of our lives. Cup finals are big.
“They are big in Norway and in Scotland and England. This tradition is important to continue with.”
Important for him too is to project a sense of equilibrium, and ensure his players are not over-hyped, as both sides betrayed signs of being in the Scottish Cup scrap last Sunday that kicked off what has become a quartet of confrontations.
“You have to have controlled aggression,” Deila said. “[My assistant] John Collins is always saying that.
“We have to be determined and high on motivation and aggression. We have to be clear thinkers about what to do in certain situations. We want the team to be like that and we want to be the same way.”
Keeping a lid on his emotions hasn’t always been easy for the passionate 39-year-old. He famously stripped down to his briefs after keeping Stromsgodset up on the last day of a league campaign early in his tenure.
In Scotland, he let it all go when Celtic scored a last-minute winner away to Aberdeen in November.
That game was watched by his twin 15-year-old daughters Thale and Live, who Deila joked the previous month he had banned from coming over to watch games after they were at Celtic Park for Hamilton Academical’s shock win.
They did tell him to calm down after his Pittodrie fist-pumping because they “have seen their father do stupid things before”. Not least the flesh exposing, which he says will never be repeated.
“They were there when I took off my clothes after that game. We were sitting on the couch the day after that game, watching it on television. It was not a great sight.”
The twins will be at Hampden today and are likely to be spared the sights, and aromas, that left them reflecting on a bonkers afternoon at Pittodrie.
“They just said that the supporters were crazy and they don’t look at the football match,” Deila said. “They smelled smoke and beers.”
Their father is intent on them inhaling the sweet smell of his success this weekend.
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