Is Ronny Deila the right man for the Celtic job?


When the final judgement of Ronny Deila’s reign at Celtic is written months or, hopefully for him, years from now, one thing is certain; it will contain a very large degree of hindsight.

As everyone knows, hindsight is a wonderful thing. It’s hindsight that lets you bombastically declare that of course it wouldn’t work for Deila at Celtic, the step was too big, his experience too scarce, he was a bargain basement appointment that reflected Celtic unwillingly to invest.

Hindsight allows you to claim that it was obvious how good a match Deila was for Celtic, his playing philosophy and excellent man-management the perfect catalyst to propel the team to perform at a higher level than the sum of its parts would suggest.

The truth is that no managerial appointment comes with an obvious outcome. Even Jose Mourinho does not come with a predetermined future and a guarantee of success. All you really can do is point at the strengths and the weaknesses, the opportunities and the challenges, in addition to accepting that a manager’s sphere of influence is often a lot smaller than is commonly attributed to him.

Deila’s appointment is especially hard to predict because he is such an unknown quantity for many.

However, it is striking that while most Celtic fans would have had next to no knowledge about him, many seem genuinely excited by the idea of him. The young, unheralded manager who not only share their views on how football should be played but who also has that little swagger, the spark, the ‘je ne sais quoi’. They ponder that if we can find the young players, the hidden gems, and make them superstars, why can’t we unearth the new managerial diamond? We wouldn’t be able to get Klopp or Rodgers, but we can go out and get the next one of them, they optimistically muse.

Can Ronny Deila himself live up to this exciting notion of the next big thing?

When he took over Strømsgodset at the age of only 32, stabilising them in the Norwegian top flight – Tippeligaen – would have been considered a very good achievement. Since their only real glory period in the early 70s, the club had spent the majority of its time outside Tippeligaen.

In his first five seasons Deila not only kept them in the league, he led them to a cup triumph and second place in the league in 2012. Last year he completed one of the most extraordinary achievement in Norwegian football league history as he led his young team to the league title, on a lower budget than half the teams in the division, playing exciting and offensive football most of the time, but still having the steel and guts to grind out points when the performance wasn’t great.

Deila has a fierce and clear commitment to how he wants to approach the two main pillars of being a football coach; playing philosophy and man-management. On the former, it’s all about the attractiveness. As a pundit for Norwegian television during the Atletico Madrid – Chelsea Champions League semi-final last season, he declared that he’d rather go out of the competition than play like Mourinho’s team. The interaction with his players is heavily influences by his background as a qualified teacher, Deila having almost a pastoral approach to man-management. He believes that how a player is doing outside of football will have a big impact on how they perform on the pitch. He wants them to trust him with everything, as if they can’t trust him when it comes to personal matters, how can they trust him to develop them into better players? It’s a deliberate holistic approach focusing on the whole human being, not just the football player.

How that will translate from a young squad at club of Strømsgodset size to the experienced group of international players at one of the most famous clubs in the world is probably the single largest question mark around Deila’s appointment. Can what made him such a successful manager in Norway, arguably the greatest talent of his generation, be replicated in the intense fishbowl of Old Firm football?

There are detractors in the press that see Celtic hiring a manager from the Norwegian league as the perfect illustration of their lack of ambition and unwillingness to invest, a cheap option to go with their cheap player purchases. That is, as with opinions that hail the Celtic board for being inspired and very clever in bringing the Norwegian to club, very much a position for the judgement that will be written after he’s left. It’ll allow someone to point to their superior knowledge and others to highlight the other unexpected factors that meant their prediction did not materialise.

None of that change the fact that in Ronny Deila, Celtic have undertaken one of the bravest and most remarkable managerial appointments you’ll ever see.

No matter what is written after he’s gone, that statement will stand the test of time.

Written by Christian Wulff – @ahellofabeating – Christian is a Norwegian football blogger living in Scotland.


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