The Man Who Came In From The Cold

978xTo me, Norway sounds like it’s pretty cold. It’s not every day you see a Scandinavian stripping down to his skivvies and doing push-ups on the grass on a cold night, but if you’ve not seen the footage of this dude then you must have been asleep for the last few days.

Celtic’s new boss Ronny Deila is a year older than me. It makes you realise that there are, in fact, things you will never get to do, no matter how good you are at Football Manager. I’m decent enough at it – I just performed Jackie McNamara style miracles with Dundee Utd in my career game, in that I got them to a cup final … and lost it – but at 37 I am now probably not going to sit in the dugout for real.

That this guy has ascended to the Celtic job at just 38 already speaks volumes.

Remember when Ally took over as boss of what was then Rangers? How the press talked about a battle of the young coaches? I still laugh at that. He was nearly 50 and already going baldy. Look at him now. Contrast that with the dude in the makeshift thong, in the footage STV News has had on a permanent loop for 2 days straight. Is this the youngest manager in the top flight?

Christ, for all I know he might be the youngest manager in the league setup. (He probably isn’t!)

He’s only got four years on Sevco Rangers latest big name signing … and two on McCulloch. Think one of them will be managing a football club rated in the Global Brand League Top 20 in a couple of years? You ever heard McCulloch talk on TV? One suspects not.

So here we have it. Celtic has made a managerial appointment that actually does excite me for once. This one breaks the mould a wee bit. Not only is it one in the eye to people who said we’d choose the safe option – some out of work second-rater with a “name” – but in equal parts it’s a stinging slap to the coupon for the dancing bears of RM and other sites, who actually suggested that Celtic would be willing to risk the whole stability of the club to go after Roy Keane because he was “an Oirish bigot”, and because it pandered to other “Oirish bigots”.

Allow me a small diversion whilst I tackle that for a moment.

What a world view these people must have, that they think a major footballing institution – as opposed to their own second tier, third rate scrounger – would actually choose one of its most important figures based on a man’s religion or nationality or perceived set of prejudices. Not only is Deila not “Oirish” or “a bigot” (a word they use a lot on those sites, a slanderous words, and I hope their moderators are watching for it), but he has no connection with Celtic at all except that he developed Stefan Johansen and then sold him to us.

Seriously, pull your heads out of your backsides long enough to get a couple of things straight. Not all the world sees things the way you lot do. This is the appointment that scares you to death because it bucks all your expectations, runs counter to all your prejudices, gives you nothing to feel smug or superior about and gives you no targets to aim for.

(Although, hilariously, some of the Huddleboard guys are already calling him Ronny Opus Deila. You have to give them full marks for sheer imagination! Those boys are a wonder of the world at times. Big hello to all of you, to Jonny in particular for giving me the heads up on that!)

It is not Celtic who is pandering to a small, but vocal section of its own support and casting the whole institution in the worst possible light.

Delving into politics now, eah? Not only is the “third strip” (what is this? The Official Ramsdens Cup Away Top? Are you serious? A third strip in the Championship?) a ham-fisted effort at a political statement on an issue which is obviously vastly too complex for most of the idiots who will buy it to even come close to grasping, but it’s a grotesque piece of work, a design nightmare so awful it could be a modern art masterpiece.

It’s more scrabbling around in the dusty past, whilst Celtic looks, and moves, forward. It’s clearly motivated by money too, born on the assumption that the club has idiots for fans, an assumption that many are going out of their way to confirm.

As such, it a pathetic action barely a step up from rattling the tin cup.

But back to the main point of the piece.

This guy is not only young, smart and ambitious, but at only 38 he’s performed something of a miracle feat in winning two trophies with a club that pretty much encapsulates the word “provincial”. Think someone at Ross County winning the SPL … that’s what we’re talking about here, friends, that’s the level of achievement the guy has already secured in his career as a coach. All you Football Manager wannabees … how impressed are you that he’s done, in real life, what many of you have bunked off school and taken the odd day off work to accomplish in the game?

(I managed to secure third spot in the EPL with Bradford in one epic career game and considered it an achievement which no manager in the modern game would come close to, never suspecting that a guy only a year older than me was eclipsing it in real life and would be winging his way to Celtic Park in very short order. Life is funny sometimes!)

Deila has a reputation for building aggressive, attacking teams, and he’s said to like the 4-3-3 system. Music to my ears, and I’m sure to the ears of every Celtic fan. Any coach who comes here and wants to play The Celtic Way will be welcomed with open arms, no matter what he achieves. I look back fondly on the football under Joe Venglos, a guy who was not given long enough to get his ideas across and took over at a time where we were in a little turmoil. You only have to see what he did with the limited resources he was given – Lubo and Mjallby – and ponder what he could have done had he been given the money Barnes and Kenny squandered a year later.

This guy has to be backed with the bucks. We’ve taken a chance with him – and as amazing as I find his winning a national title with a provincial team at only 38, it’s not wrong to say that – and it ought to be the last risk we take here. He will quickly know what areas of the team he needs to strengthen, and I hope to God he is backed with the money to do just that. He also has to be given the chance to work with guys like Forster and Big Virgil, because these players are going to be crucial to our chances of progressing in the Champions League.

More than anything, I am excited by his emphasis on youth. We have some staggeringly capable young players at Celtic Park, and some of them have been given only the briefest of opportunities in the first team squad. Players like Bahrudin Atajić, Dylan McGeogh, Callum McGregor, Paul McMullan and young sensation Calvin Miller to name but a few … these kids should see this appointment as a genuine chance to stake their claim for a first team shirt, and they’ve got the stuff to do it. It also offers a fresh start to young Tony Watt … if he comes home, we might yet see the player who showed such dazzling promise that night against Barcelona.

I am chuffed by this appointment. You can probably tell. It ticks the boxes for me, all of them, more boxes than I expected to see ticked. He has a short window in which to get his backroom team in place, and to start analysing the squad in advance of the Champions League, but I can feel nothing but optimism today, and I cannot wait to see how he gets started.

Pre-season is usually long and awful. This one has a World Cup and a new Celtic to build.

Ronny Deila, welcome to the show that never ends. Welcome to the Greatest Club in Football.

Welcome to Celtic. The only show in town.

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James Forrest

James Forrest is a writer and blogger from Glasgow, and the author of two books, Fragments and Believers, which are available on Amazon.

5 thoughts on “The Man Who Came In From The Cold

  • 6 June, 2014 at 1:50 pm
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    Good peice james,just watched new boss press con,must say am well impressed with how the guy came accross!!was a doubter at first only because a had never heard of the guy,now a cant wait for him to get started…well done lawell.

  • 7 June, 2014 at 12:39 am
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    Stirling Albions manager is 31.

  • 7 June, 2014 at 12:44 am
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    Thanks for that mucker! Excellent answer. Jeeesuz, now I do feel old …

  • 7 June, 2014 at 12:44 pm
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    I reckon we’ve just got a guy who may take us that little step forward in the Champions League,maybe not in the forthcoming season but the next.
    I do wish though that folk like Andy Walker,Roddy Forsyth and people of their ilk would just zip it,Forsyth’s piece in the Telegraph reeks of a bitter madman,perhaps he should stick to writing about Sevco,even take a few tips from Jackson,leave football to the big Bhoys out there.

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