Today’s confirmation that Ronny Deila will part ways with Celtic at the end of the season, comes as no surprise to anyone with an interest in Scottish football. Defeat at Hampden was the final nail in the coffin for Ronny Deila’s reign. Yet, while Sunday was unacceptable in both result and performance, my overriding emotion is one of sadness at what might have been for Celtic under Ronny Deila’s guidance.
We’ve come to a stage where this decision; whether Deila’s or the board’s, had to happen. There is no trust in Ronny’s capability to take the club forward. But how have we found ourselves here?
As an unknown entity to most outside of Scandinavia, Ronny Deila was always going to be under intense scrutiny when he arrived at Celtic Park. It was important he got off to a good start, making an impression on his new side.
A successful team depends on its relationships. Quality is, of course, vital; but a unified, determined squad can far exceed its potential on paper. Without meaning to be clichéd, we can look to the remarkable tale of Leicester City as an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Why is this relevant? Because relationships are built on respect. Before Ronny Deila had even been confirmed as Celtic manager he was undermined.
"He was going to be brought in as number two when Johan Mjallby left… I don't know if it's confirmed with Celtic yet, but I know from contacts in the game that he is well respected as a coach.”
To be public knowledge that Ronny Deila was not the first choice appointment to be Celtic manager is one thing, but, for our then recently departed manager to declare that Deila was, in fact, intended to come in as his assistant showed a complete lack of respect to the incoming boss trying to forge his own reputation in Scotland.
They say football in Glasgow is like a goldfish bowl; something you will never fully understand until you have lived it. As a stranger entering the fray of Scottish football, it would be essential to have a strong support network in place. Step forward Johns: Collins and Kennedy. The decision by the club to assign (perhaps ‘inflict’ would be more fitting) their coaching staff on the new boss wasn’t unique to Ronny. It was a determining factor to their preferred option Roy Keane turning down the job, “They’d already picked the man who’d be my assistant… It wasn’t an ideal start. Were they doubting me already?” When business men are dictating fundamental footballing decisions before you’ve even accepted the role alarm bells should start ringing. They did for Roy, unfortunately they did not for Ronny.
Perhaps Ronny Deila was overwhelmed to be offered such a high profile role at an early stage in his career, but these initial decisions set the tone for his reign and ultimately, his demise.
Ronny’s first few months in charge should have been his chance to implement his ideas on his new team, bringing in new signings with the qualities he felt the squad lacked. In an early interview he stated, “Loans are a possibility but they're not ideal. You don't want to develop other clubs talent and not get any money for it.” From that moment until the closing of the transfer window we signed 5 players on loan. Was there a very sudden and very drastic change of heart? I suspect not. Ronny was entering unprecedented territory with unknown backroom staff and a playing squad assembled above his head.
In terms of implementing his own ideas on the team we heard of the importance of “fitness”, “high-tempo football”, and the need to be “24-hour athletes”. How do you get fitter? Personally, I had believed an important factor was to eat correctly and train well. Apparently not in Scottish football. Ronny Deila was mocked in the media, and indeed accused of being disrespectful, for banning fizzy drinks and “demanding” players ate lunch together. The irony of it.
As the season progressed Celtic began to find a bit of form, starting with a rallying late win away at title rivals Aberdeen. The scenes at the final whistle were befitting of a galvanised group, with the manager leading the impromptu celebrations; the Ronny Roar was born.
With performances now improving, the loaded questions about the possibility of a domestic treble (our first since 2001) were consistently put to the manager. Ever-honest, Ronny admitted that the goal was to win every domestic competition available. The inevitable defeat in the Scottish Cup semi-final was deemed a failure by Ronny to achieve his targets. The success of a league and cup double was belittled by those gleefully willing to stick in the knife.
As this season has progressed it has been clear for some time that Ronny Deila is unable to inspire these players. Passive performances have highlighted the lack of character within the side. Deila’s Celtic became incapable of overcoming adversity. In the biggest games we consistently failed. The Roar, though rarely performed, had (apparently) become “embarrassing” (god forbid a manager trying to connect with his supporters), and the silence from the club as every out-of-work manager in Britain touted themselves for the Celtic job, was deafening.
For some time Ronny Deila has looked a broken man; an isolated figure sold down the river by a club more focused on keeping an eye on their rivals in the division below, than on progressing on their own accord.
Am I angry at Ronny? No. My anger is placed firmly at the door of those who have been downsizing our club for the past few years. I am, however disappointed in him.
A rare man of integrity and honesty in football, he should have lived and died by his own sword. Numerous players have not performed for months; they don’t appear to have ever came close to buying into Ronny’s philosophy on football. They have shown no desire to fight for their manager or follow his instructions. Yet he has continually stuck by them. The insistence on using a formation that wasn’t suitable to the players at his disposal has been infuriating. We’ve played the season with an exposed defence, an overrun midfield, and an isolated striker. In terms of the playing squad, any slight affection I held for them has waned (barring a few). But only Ronny has himself to blame for continuing to stand by the players who do not care for him.
Young, clever footballers have had to watch from the stands as their ‘seniors’ have continually failed. It has appeared to have all become too much for Ronny, his fear of failure overcame him and he became petrified of change. At home to Inverness we witnessed the talented trio of Patrick Roberts, Ryan Christie and Scott Allan on the field together for a mere 8 minutes. Although a short amount of time, it was the best spell of football of the season, but they haven’t played together since. With Allan and Christie vanishing into the wilderness. Only Ronny knows why.
Another cliché is that you regret the things you don’t do in life more than those you do, and I sense this will apply to Ronny Deila when he looks back on his time at Celtic. He accepted the influence of the board in deciding his playing and non-playing staff, he accepted the media’s ridicule of his footballing beliefs, and he accepted being undermined by his senior players without punishment.
A man of charisma and character, Ronny Deila has never truly allowed his personality to flourish in Glasgow. While the blame for consistently disappointing team selections, the lack of progression in style of football, and the inability to motivate the team, must lay at Ronny’s door, it is those who have undermined him since his arrival at Celtic Park who bear the brunt of my frustrations.
Let’s win the league and give Ronny a roaring send off. The decision makers who have failed Celtic and treated the fans like fools should not be able to escape from this situation by hanging their manager out to dry.
Best of luck in the future Ronny, you’ve made mistakes, but you can hold your head high.