What can a young manager do to receive plaudits after winning a league and cup double in his debut season? Don’t manage in Scottish football.
Celtic and their fans celebrated a fourth title win in a row on Saturday, to add to the League Cup trophy won in March, without even kicking a ball. But for some that wasn’t good enough!
Friday night saw Celtic demolish Dundee 5-0 at Parkhead – in one of the most dominant performances of the season under Ronny Deila. That result pushed Celtic one result away from winning the title in Deila’s first season in charge.
Their closest rivals, Aberdeen, faced Dundee United at Tannadice on Saturday and anything other than a win would hand Celtic the title – with four games to play.
Derek McInnes’ side, huffed and puffed, but succumbed to a solitary goal scored by former Killie playmaker Robbie Muirhead, handing Celtic the title.
Despite Ronny Deila’s side winning a domestic double, they are given no credit and no plaudits from sections of the Scottish mainstream sports press. Why? Because there is no Rangers to challenge them.
Is that Deila’s fault? Is that Celtic’s fault? The fault lies squarely with the financial basket case that is Rangers and the newly crowned Scottish champions can only beat the teams put in front of them and they have done that.
Their comments are not only disrespectful to Celtic and their achievements this season, but also to those clubs in Scotland’s top flight as a whole.
Aberdeen should be congratulated for running Celtic close all season long, they are a talented bunch of players working for a manager who has inspired the North East side’s resurgence since he took over the reins.
Inverness Caley Thistle, with a miniscule budget, are in third spot and have performed superbly under John Hughes – who have also secured a Scottish Cup Final place having beaten Celtic in the semis.
St.Johnstone Dundee United, Dundee and Hamilton should also be congratulated for the way they have played and performed this season – whether they have fallen by the wayside of late or not.
Sadly some who cover the Scottish game would rather discredit, rubbish and talk down our game – than actually talk it up – it is getting boring and predictable now.
We constantly hear how the Scottish Premiership is a one horse race – because Rangers aren’t in the league – that it was Celtic’s to throw away all because they have the biggest budget in the league. Money doesn’t buy you success – Rangers are perfect examples of that in Scotland – despite having the second biggest budget in Scottish football, the Ibrox side could only come third in Scotland’s second tier behind Hearts and Hibernian.
The Ibrox side’s defenders [including those in the press]always point to the club’s off field issues for having an effect on their performances – but that is surely an easy excuse to make as they have been facing the same issues over the past few years. Former manager Ally McCoist was defended to the hilt, by his pals in the media – none other than Derek Johnstone – and was rarely criticised or disrespected as Ronny Deila has been by the same suspects.
Even when McCoist was put on gardening leave and Kenny McDowall was appointed as caretaker manager, the results didn’t improve and the former Celtic first team coach looked fed up and disinterested in the role – imagine that being any other club manager? The press would have lynched him in the press.
In fact Ronny Deila was already being touted for the sack by many in the mainstream press for a poor start to his managerial career at Celtic. Was it down to him being foreign? Down to him not being one of the names touted for the job? Being an unknown commodity to even the so-called qualified experts of the Scottish press? Or was it just because writing negatively about Celtic sold more papers than actually praising a young manager trying to instill new methods and a new fitness regime on his charges – Remember chipgate? Remember their criticism of Deila for not selecting Kris Commons week in week out despite the midfielder not being up to peak fitness.
The Norwegian has made his critics eat their words, but there are some out there that would rather continue their bile than actually backtrack and say ‘fair enough we were wrong’.
Celtic’s critics claim that they should have run away with the title this season, after making the comparison with Neil Lennon’s title victory last season, failing to take into consideration a new manager coming in, with new tactics and a new way of doing things.
Not to mention the improvement of the teams in the Premiership for the most part.
Deila is criticised for spending £2,300,000 on Stefan Scepovic and then not playing him. Ignoring Deila’s swoop for Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven in the January transfer window – which gave Celtic a boost when they needed it.
They fail to mention the acquisition of Craig Gordon and the performance of the Scotland international between the sticks, after influential keeper Fraser Forster was sold to Southampton for £10,000,000.
They also dismiss the lack of money at Deila’s disposal compared to Neil Lennon – who spent significantly last season bringing in the likes of Balde, Pukki, van Dijk, Boerrigter, Bitton, Johansen and Griffiths.
With the trio of Balde, Pukki and Boerrigter high profile and expensive flops. And the likes of van Dijk, Bitton, Johansen and Griffiths playing better than what they did last season – in my opinion.
They also refuse to compare Deila’s first season to that of Neil Lennon’s – where the Northern Irishman spent more money than Deila – and only won the Scottish Cup.
Deila was on the road to winning the treble this season and may have done so if the match officials in their Scottish Cup semi final clash against Inverness Caley had done their job properly over a handball decision – which would have drastically changed the game.
The Champions League was a sore point for Celtic – there is no hiding from that – but despite getting a reprieve thanks to dodgy paperwork by Legia Warsaw, they failed to beat Maribor and dropped into the Europa League – where they were eventually knocked out by Inter Milan in the last 32 of the competition.
Lennon failed to reach the Europa League group stages in his first season as Celtic manager – after being knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers by Braga and then beaten by Utrecht in the playoffs for the Europa League.
And this was a manager who had experience of the Celtic team and who had significant funding handed to him to rebuild a side.
Surely Deila deserves credit for rebuilding and turning around the fortune of this young Celtic side – to become double winners, reaching the knock out stages of a European competition and going close to a domestic treble? I wouldn’t count your chickens though – I have yet to read comments from his critics saying they got it wrong [outwith Chris Sutton].
No matter what Deila did this season – be it a treble or not – it wouldn’t be good enough for some in the Scottish mainstream press who believe that there is no Scottish football without a Rangers – specifically a strong Rangers [cash rich].
The 1980s saw a resurgence of the provincial clubs with the likes of Aberdeen and Dundee United winning championships knocking Rangers and Celtic off their perch. Was this period in Scottish football seen as ‘armageddon’? Or was it heralded as a great time for Scottish football?
The current scribes in the press have fed off and profited from the dominance of Celtic and Rangers – they also belittle and ridiculed the game they cover because of that dominance. Yet when that dominance evaporates and the other clubs close the gap – they rubbish the league as a one horse race despite Aberdeen’s resurgence and pushing Celtic all the way.
As clubs in Scotland tighten their belts, look towards youth development and picking up bargains elsewhere – we are stuck with a press pack who would rather rubbish our game than look towards what is a brighter future.
Ronny Deila has two league titles and two domestic cups to his name already with two clubs at the age of 39.
Deila has infuriated and inspired Celtic supporters throughout this season – they have signed up to and believe in what the Norwegian is doing at the club as have the players. It is just a pity that the mainstream press in Scotland would rather belittle the man, his achievements and the Scottish top flight – all because one club are a financial basket case.
Scottish football is not merely Celtic and Rangers. It is all 42 senior teams, the HFL, the Lowland League, Juniors and beyond.
But for the mainstream press – Celtic and Rangers are their cash cow – without them the mainstream sports press in this country would be non-existent.
Celtic has a bright future under Ronny Deila as has Scottish football as a whole – sadly the same cannot be said for the Scottish mainstream media.