This website has been very supportive of Ronny Deila. I am personally on the record as thinking his appointment was a step forward.
He appeared to tick many of the boxes myself and others thought were more important than simply having experience.
For a start, he had won things. It doesn’t matter to me that he had done it in the Norwegian league. He had achieved success, and more importantly he had done it at a club with no record of winning trophies before, which is the hardest thing in football to do.
His philosophy appeared to be based on an attacking style. He appeared to favour giving youth a chance, which is always something Celtic fans will welcome.
Yes, Ronny Deila looked like the right man at the right time. So where the Hell is it all going wrong?
First, a question, and one a lot of people haven’t thought to ask: Is it going wrong?
I think, if you look at it, the signs are not encouraging.
We’ve played eight games in the league. We have won four of them and drawn two others. We’ve defeated Hearts in the League Cup, and we’ve gained four points in the Europa League, against the best two teams in our group, in the first two games, including a difficult draw away.
On the surface of it, this seems like a credible start. But we’ve also gone out of the Champions League twice, in humiliating fashion, and have lost two of our league matches.
It’s a record that any number of managers might be entirely satisfied with though, Champions League defeats notwithstanding. The difference is, Deila is the manager of Celtic, and to drop points in four of the first eight league games is purely and simply unacceptable. To have lost – comprehensively – against Legia Warsaw might be excusable, if you consider this is a new manager trying to bed in a team, but regardless of some people trying to reinvent them as a good side Maribor were beatable. We ought to have had enough about us to dispatch them.
In Europe, Deila has an alibi, and that is the disgraceful lack of ambition and imagination shown by our board of directors and their abject failure to deliver him anything other than the free transfer of Craig Gordon and a couple of players on loan. The challenges facing us on that front were made crystal clear last year, and the damning indictment of our board is that they sent an untested manager onto that stage with the shell of a team not good enough for it.
It is no exaggeration to say that our preparation for the biggest football competition on Earth was scandalous, and the blame for that lies squarely at the door of the boardroom.
There are those who will try to excuse that failure. They will talk about how it takes time for a manager to decide on the priorities, on what areas of the field need strengthening. This is a nonsense. Deila knew what his priorities were. He signed three wide players and two strikers, with the latter two signings – in our most pressing position – way too late in the window to make any difference to our Champions League fate.
The wide players are all here on loan, although they all have an option to buy. On the basis of what we’ve seen so far not one of them is up to snuff. Two of our other signings are on loan, and we don’t have a hope in Hell of keeping Denayer.
If the others are not signed the manager will face the same task before the start of next season … to rebuild the team with Champions League qualifiers looming.
This staggering lack of continuity and forward thinking virtually guarantees a second “year of transition”, and almost certainly more failure.
This is a shambles, and very little of that can be laid at Deila’s door.
What I have no problem laying at his door is an absurd level of back-sliding. He changes his mind like the weather. Loan players were not his preference … until he signed five of them. Attacking football was the priority, but he plays with one up front. He talked up Leigh Griffiths and then decided not to play him, preferring Anthony Stokes.
Every manager has his favourites, but Stokes and Mulgrew are simply not good enough to wear the Celtic shirt, and any manager who does not realise this is one who scares me to death.
His tactical inflexibility, and failure to understand that Celtic fans associate attacking football with playing two strikers, is worrisome. His failure to check into the history – Paul LeGuen already tried 4-2-3-1 in Scotland and paid with his job , specifically because packed defences are not going to fall to attempted crosses for a solitary front man – is worrisome.
He talked to the press today about the team “making progress.” How can someone say that losing at home to a side that hasn’t beaten us there in over 70 years represents progress, of any kind? We had seven shots on target, and 15 in total, but this is what you expect from Celtic. Making a like-for-like striker-for-striker swap with the team 1-0 down isn’t the way to make the most of those chances, and it doesn’t help when you leave on a striker who hasn’t scored in weeks … and continue to play him out wide, even when you’re still chasing with 20 minutes to go.
Despite winning convincingly against Dundee Utd and Hearts, this isn’t a team that’s even remotely playing well at the moment. The away win against St Mirren last week was lamentable. The win over Dinamo Zagreb owed more to the brilliance of Craig Gordon than the effectiveness of the team in the second half of the match, and defensively we’ve looked highly suspect in every game we’ve played so far.
Celtic are still active participants in four competitions, but the margin for error in three of them is zero, and this is a side that looks increasingly fragile. Only in the league can we afford to wait for things to change, but for how long?
In our magazine, All In The Game, I said in one article that there have been years in our recent history where our league form would have beaten all comers, a decent Rangers team included. But there have been other years when such was our lack of consistency that a team in our league that was just a little bit better than the others, and was capable of beating them on a regular basis, would have stood a chance of catching us, although we were on a different financial plain.
Only the fact none of our SPL opponents is markedly better than any of the others is keeping us out of severe trouble right now. Sooner or later that is going to change, and when it does we’re going to get the fright of our lives if we continue down this slippery slope.
There’s a section of our support that looks at games like the one just past and is willing to write them off as “acceptable losses” because “we will win the league in the end.” Will we, really? Lose enough matches, drop enough points, and you don’t win anything. That’s how the game works. Aside from this arrogance, it is the kind of thing that insults those supporters who go to games, week in week out, and particularly those who make huge sacrifices in order to do so.
Maybe it’s just me who sniggers whenever I hear how Celtic fans really crave competition. What sports fan in the world actually wants harder games and tougher campaigns? What’s the point in asking for a stronger team, for an evolution that moves you steadily forward, if you’re secretly crying in your coffee or your beer about your team being too far ahead?
This is the kind of thinking that baffles me, and always has.
Not that it matters. Keep going backwards and you’ll get competition soon enough.
I want us to win every game we play. I want Celtic to crush every opponent. Otherwise what’s the point? Do we watch our club just for the Hell of it? Isn’t the point to win?
There are no “acceptable losses”. Ask Sevco fans how they feel about McCoist’s recent comments that he’d settle for promotion via the play-off route. They don’t want to hear it, and nor should they. It’s an act of surrender and they are as pissed off as I am when I hear people say Sunday’s result doesn’t matter.
Yet, for all that, nothing’s going to change at Celtic Park, however bad results get in the next few months. Barring an absolutely unacceptable defeat which registers on the Richter Scale and can’t be ignored, this guy’s job is safe … and even then, I wonder who will want to wield the knife.
There’s a moment in the third season of The Thick Of It when the terrifying spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker is riding in the back of a car with the Secretary of State for the Department of Social Development and she is fretting about being sacked, although she’s only been in the job a week.
“Stop worrying,” he tells us. “The PM’s not going to sack you after a week.” Before she even has a chance to process this he lays some reality on her, and I have to paraphrase slightly.
“Sacked after twelve months, it looks like you’ve screwed up … Sacked after a week, it looks like he’s screwed up …”
Whatever we think of how things have gone so far, the manager is going nowhere. As bad as things might look, getting rid of him now would have serious questions being asked about the judgement of those above his head, the people who couldn’t retain O’Neill or Strachan, and who hired Mowbray and thought it a good idea to give an untested Neil Lennon the job on a full time basis.
In short, we could stumble on like this for months because the alternative would be for these people to admit they blew it.
These people are due those serious questions, and if this managerial appointment ends in tears, as I am starting to fear that it might – events do seem to be taking on a certain horrible, wrenching, momentum and the air tingles with a sickening inevitability – those people will have nowhere to hide. Some of them should have gone already. There is no way they can avoid following him out the door.
Until then, we have to simply suck it up and see where we get to.
There are some who are still willing to give him a chance, and on balance I am probably one of them although I see the present trajectory as a cause for great concern.
Deila told us not to worry today. A lot of Celtic fans are saying the same. When I listen to that, I can’t help think they’re avoiding facing the truth, and it doesn’t help our present position if the very real concerns aren’t being acknowledged.
In the very same scene in The Thick Of It, after Tucker has clued her in on why her job is safe, for now, she peers out the window, and says, in a voice that suggests she believes it; “I’m not doing terribly, am I?”
Tucker looks out the other window, suddenly animated. “I love the way they’ve sandblasted everything around here,” he says. “It’s so clean ….”
Even Nicola Murray gets that message.
There’s still time left to turn it around, but very little. And the clock is ticking.
This is Celtic. There are no “acceptable losses.” I hope our manager understands that, and gets it together fast.
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