With eight games played this season in the Scottish Premiership Celtic sit in sixth place, six points behind surprise [but deserving]league leaders Hamilton Accies. With one game in hand over the five clubs above them, Celtic should claw back that points gap to just three. No big deal right?
With a further 30 games to play there are still plenty of twists and turns in this league for all twelve clubs, but Ronny Deila has already face criticism from all quarters and calls for his sacking are already resonating around the Celtic fanbase, with only 17 games in all competitions played.
If Celtic fans want Deila sacked at this stage of the season, why not just change the club’s name to Leeds United and invite Massimo Cellino to become the club’s owner.
Ronny Deila is facing a culture shock, going from Norwegian minnows Strømsgodset to Glasgow giants Celtic. The demands placed on him at Strømsgodset are nowhere near those as Celtic manager, but no one should have expected him to go straight into the job and hit the ground running even with the players at his disposal.
Look at Manchester United after Ferguson retired, David Moyes took over the reins and the same players yet failed miserably. Was that simply down to Moyes not being a good manager, out of his depth or a failure in tactics and man management? He was sacked with the blame firmly laid on his lap and yet another legendary manager Louis van Gaal is struggling in the role after spending £146 million this summer. With seven games played, van Gaal’s United side have won three games, drawn twice and lost two in the league. Does that mean the Dutchman is out of his depth? Or is he trying to implement his methods on his new club and charges?
While Deila is no van Gaal, he is a new manager trying to implement his methods on his new club and charges. Methods that worked for him previously. So are the issues at the club much bigger than a new manager?
Speaking ahead of Celtic’s 1-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb, Deila launched a broadside at his detractors, including predecessor Neil Lennon. The Norwegian, commenting on the state of his squad, said: “You have to see from my squad what I was taking over. Some of the players were injured and had operations, some were coming in and were not where they should be. Others had not played for a long time. When I saw the tests they were doing I saw that they had a lot to improve.
“It’s not about what they were doing before. It’s all about how they are in the moment now. Maybe I see things differently from what Neil was doing. To be professional, for me, is to be a 24-hour athlete. If not then you can go and start working outside football. That’s not so hard. You can be amateur again.
“You have to understand that I can’t be stupid when I say things like that. If Neil gets irritated by me saying we can work on how we eat and improve that’s up to him.
“For me I think from what I have seen abroad and what I have experienced myself it’s important. We have different ways to do it. Do you think Andy Murray eats chips?”
He added: “If I feel I’m not being treated fairly then I get emotional. I am an emotional guy. So far things have been very good but this is something I think is very important. It takes time to adapt. You don’t come in and think you are the king. You have to work at how you want things and watch things and people have to get a chance. That’s what I’ve been doing. But when you are being assessed a lot you also have to do the changes you want to do.
“I know what I want and I’m going to go for it. In the end only time will tell if I succeed or not. But I am really enjoying the job and looking forward to every match. I am going to win things – that’s why I am here.”
In public it seems the Celtic players are buying into Deila’s regime though.
In Sunday morning’s Daily Record, striker Anthony Stokes commenting on Deila’s management style, said: “Listen, there’s nothing wrong with it. Any manager who comes in is going to see certain aspects that he wants to tweak. Fitness, his style of football, that’s the way he wants to work.
“We respect that and understand now what he wants to do and what he wants out of the team. It’s a gradual process and we are slowly but surely getting there. At every club I’ve played at, everybody tries to eat well. At a big club like this the food has always been exceptional.
“The manager just wants to eke a bit more out of every player. Five or 10 per cent more from every player and I’m sure we’ll see a different team – if we can get there. Everyone is trying to cut down, though. He is very rigid on body fat and body weight. He wants everyone at their prime. I definitely have changed. It’s something I’m very conscious of – he has made us aware that we will be doing body testing and weighing ourselves every two weeks.
“I’m probably down five kilos since I came back for pre-season. I still have another couple of kilos to get to the weight that he wants but I don’t mind that. If I can get to my prime body weight that’s only going to help me. It’s probably one of the things I’m focusing on more than I have at any stage in my career.”
Defender Virgil van Dijk also backed Deila’s fitness regime, the Dutchman said: “It’s good for us all – after all it’s not something that makes you worse or anything else. He wants to make us better players, wants to get everything out of us and that’s a good sign.
“He is also busy trying to win games and that is the most important thing in football but if you play at the highest level then you should look into it. If you want to play at the highest level and get everything out of yourself then of course you need to do what it takes. Diet and fitness are important. They belong there.
“It’s his opinion and everyone can have their opinion. He’s the gaffer and he wants us to do it. That’s his right and it will only make us better human beings and better players.”
Commons, who has been labelled a bit more rotund this season, has backed the new manager and his tactics, he said: “To be honest with you, it’s no different from when Neil Lennon was in charge. His tactics were always to put teams under pressure, make them play it long, make them make mistakes.
“Unless you’re playing the likes of Barcelona or Real Madrid where it doesn’t really matter how much pressure you put them under, they’re that good they’ll pick you off. There are still certain games where you have to park the bus. But in my time here with Neil we always played with that sort of intensity, that sort of pressure and it’s no different now.
“We want to put teams under pressure, especially at Celtic Park. Obviously it’ll be a little bit different away from home but in time that’s what the manager wants to do, to try to do what the Barcelonas, the Bayern Munichs do – home or away, come out and put teams under pressure. It’s going to take time, certainly, but I think the foundations are there.”
Plenty of public backing from three of the first team regulars, but that could all be for the cameras as some behind the cameras and holding the digital voice recorders, claim that there are murmurs behind the scenes about Deila’s management.
Is this a journalist putting 2+2 together and coming up with 5 or is there someone within the squad who is speaking out to pals in the press to hit back at a manager who he has a problem with?
Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Hamilton, along with other performances this season, have not been good enough. But is this down to Deila, his training regime, man management style, tactics, the players at his disposal left behind by Lennon, the board’s failure to invest in transfers or the fact that teams no longer fear Celtic?
Could it be a combination of all of the above?
Focusing on today’s game alone, Celtic had 16 shots on Accies goal with seven on target. Accies had five on Celtic’s goal with two on target one of those being the goal.
Stokes had two clear-cut chances to score but failed to do so, Accies keeper Michael McGovern was also on top form denying Celtic on a number of occasions.
This says more about the finishing of Celtic than Deila’s tactics, training regime or man management style. However, we should not detract from the fact that Accies’ game plan worked and they were rewarded for it.
Skipper Scott Brown rounded on some of his teammate after the match, saying: “We didn’t have enough movement and there weren’t enough people wanting the ball. People were just hiding and it was disappointing to see and play in. We tried to play but Hamilton pressed us high up the pitch and teams don’t do that at Celtic Park.
“We should be pressing teams high up the park and it hasn’t happened. I don’t do getting beat. I came to Celtic to win games and we are not winning games and performing just now and I don’t know why that is. We are just not doing it as a team and as individuals. I take my share of the blame as well in there.”
Harsh words from Brown, but after watching today’s performance you cannot argue against them. In fact plenty of supporters have criticised the performances of players this season and before that, many of those on the field of play today.
Deila, speaking after Sunday’s defeat, said: “I’m not worried at all. When you have 10 to 15 chances, you have played quite well. With so many chances, you should win the game, no question. But of course you need to put the ball in the net. Sometimes football is like that.
“It’s a very disappointing day. We had a lot of chances and didn’t score one goal so that’s unbelievably disappointing. If we had done that we would’ve won the game quite easily, with so many chances you should win games. We need determination to really want to get the ball into the net and today we had more to go in that. A little bit too sloppy, we need more accuracy and more determination.
“To lose at home is nothing we want. We have to turn this around and bounce back next match. Still we are into everything and have opportunities to make a very good season.”
Tony Mowbray was given nine months before the Celtic board put him on ‘gardening leave’ and his successor Neil Lennon was handed the job on a permanent basis even after the Ross County cup debacle.
Lennon’s time at Celtic was boosted by two successive Champions League qualifications and a result against Barcelona, but this whitewashed over poor league performances, abysmal cup performances against the likes of Morton and Arbroath as well as the signing of flops such as Amido Balde, Teemu Pukki, Mo Bangura, Efrain Juarez, Fredrik Ljungberg, Rabiu Ibraham, Lassad Nouioui and Derk Boerrigter.
The Premiership season is just days away from being two months old and disgruntled Celtic fans are demanding Deila gone and firing off a list of managers they want in the job, men that either knocked back the job previously or those deemed not good enough first time round by these same fans.
Celtic fans, since the Martin O’Neill era, have been spoilt and that continued under Strachan and Lennon – despite the blip from Mowbray – but to sack a manager just two months into a major rebuilding project [and it is a rebuilding project]is sheer lunacy.
Henrik Larsson was offered the job and rejected it, Roy Keane was seemingly approached and he decided to stay as assistant to O’Neill at the Republic of Ireland before becoming assistant to Paul Lambert at Celtic. Would you rather have Owen Coyle?
According to Norwegian football writer Christian Wulff, Deila’s appointment was ‘one of the bravest and most remarkable managerial appointments you’ll ever see’.
Deila may not have pals in the Scottish mainstream media like other underfire managers do, to support him and laud praise on him. He is also an easy target for those Celtic fans who labelled him the cheap option, a nobody and not Celtic-minded, fans who were against his appointment from day one as they still cling onto the notion that Celtic are a European giant. Sorry to burst your bubble lads, in the grand scheme of things, Celtic are no longer a major force in European football in football or in financial terms.
The problems at Celtic started long before Deila arrived on these shores and they will continue if Deila is punted out the door to satisfy the lynch mentality on show at this moment in time.
The Norwegian needs time not his P45.