By Daniel Hayes
Celtic have just been crowned SPFL champions for an incredible 9th successive season. On what has been an amazing journey, fans can now inevitably look towards the magic 10 to break the record for consecutive titles in Scotland.
Nine seasons is a long time and in years to come, Celtic fans everywhere will dissect every season, manager and player with glee, remembering one of the most successful periods in the rich history of the club.
One man who has played a major part in Celtic’s modern-day success was Ronny Deila, who managed the club between 2014 and 2016. While many considered the Deila project to be a failure, the Norwegian ultimately delivered titles 4 and 5 which should never be forgotten.
Recently, the current New York City FC manager appeared in the Open Goal podcast. In both interviews, Ronny was extremely honest and humble, taking full responsibility for any and all failures that occurred during his Celtic tenure.
The former Strømsgodset gaffer was full of praise for everyone at the club from the fans, to the players and staff, all the way to the board room.
Deila’s reign ultimately ended in disappointment but it is easy to forget how good Celtic looked towards the end of his first season. The hoops were playing fast, free-flowing, passing football. Looking back on the starting 11 by the end of the 2014-15 season, one could imagine that the side really could have gone places if certain players stayed at the club and the form of others continued:
Gordon; Lustig, Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Forrest, Johansen, Armstrong; Griffiths.
The club were throwing aside all in their path, even pushing Inter Milan all the way in the last 32 of the Europa League with an enthralling 3-3 draw at Celtic Park before a desperately unlucky 1-0 defeat at the San Siro where van Dijk saw red.
At that time, Deila’s side looked to have begun something special. Virgil van Dijk was in a league of his own, Stefan Johansen looked capable of carrying the legendary no25 from Lubo and Naka, and Leigh Griffiths had started scoring for fun.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. The beginning of the end for Deila started with a shock elimination in the Champions League play-offs against Malmo. Despite a strong attacking performance at home to the Swedes, the concession of two away goals and a lacklustre performance in Scandinavia saw the hoops drop into the Europa League again.
Inevitably, Virgil van Dijk made his move to Southampton, leaving a hole in defence.
Things went from bad to worse that season. A dismal Europa League campaign reached boiling point with a public spat between Kris Commons and the management team when the attacker was substituted in a 3-1 defeat against Molde. Since swapping his boots for a microphone, Celtic fans everywhere have seen a nasty, turncoat side to Commons, prompting claims that he was out-of-order in his attack of Deila.
It was been well-documented that some players simply could not grasp Deila’s philosophy, a lot of which was based around diet. Kris Commons has never been shy of a bit of excess bulk, and his superstar image at the club at the time may have prompted him to ignore Deila’s suggestions which climaxed with the mini mutiny in Molde.
However, when Si Ferry asked the Norwegian about the incident, Deila showed no malice towards Commons stating that he understood the attacker’s frustrations and that the bust up was simply in the heat of the moment.
In hindsight, Deila was not helped by the actions of a number of players at the club. Commons publicly rebelled against him, van Dijk constantly pushed for a move and Johansen’s form fell drastically.
However, not once in his interviews does Deila blame any of the players and he highlights that his decision making in team selections and recruitment were a big part of the problem.
Overall, Celtic simply did not show the same sparkle they did from the season before. While clearly still the best team in the league and inevitable title winners, the performance and fitness levels of the team had dropped significantly which was at its most apparent in the horrific semi-final defeat at Hampden against The Rangers. Against a championship side, Celtic looked the more tired and deflated team after 120 minutes and ultimately crashed out on penalties.
This would spell the end of Ronny Deila’s Celtic career as he announced he would step down after the final game of the season at home to Motherwell. From there, Celtic picked up a decent amount of form with big wins against Hearts and Aberdeen to win the title before thumping the Steelmen 7-0 on trophy day. Ronny went out with a bang leaving, overall, fond memories for the Celtic faithful.
As mentioned, Ronny takes full responsibility for what was a disappointing second season claiming that the players, coaches and board were nothing but professional, supportive and hard-working. However, as fans we cannot help but wonder if just a few things had gone differently, would Celtic have flourished under Deila? Aspects like more support from the board for transfers, players like Denayer and van Dijk staying one more season, players like Brown and Lustig staying fit and the likes of Johansen and Bitton maintaining form could have made for a seriously promising project.
On the other hand, it became clear that the job was just too big for Deila, and the club did not have time to let him gain the experience he needed. Certain transfers like Jo Inge Berget, Nadir Ciftci and Tyler Blackett left a lot to be desired.
Ultimately, Ronny was perhaps a bit unlucky. However, he himself admits the time was right to move on and that he well and truly loved his two years in Glasgow and still follows Celtic.
To this day, there remains plenty of positives to take from Deila’s reign. His development of players such as Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor, Leigh Griffiths and Tom Rogic should never be forgotten. The Norwegian should also take credit for the capture of a number of Treble Treble heroes such as Dedryk Boyata, Jozo Simunovic, Stuart Armstrong and Ryan Christie.
Above all, despite a mere basic knowledge of the club and Scottish football before his arrival, Ronny Deila fell in love with Celtic and its support. We will never forget his legendary Ronny Roar which aroused scenes of incredible passion.
Ronny gave absolutely everything to the club while in charge and despite not quite reaching the heights his first season promised, there is no doubt that most Celtic fans will look fondly on his time at Paradise and we will be thrilled if he joins us for the 10-in-a-row celebrations.
You don’t get to 10 without 4 and 5. Thank you Ronny.
What is your assessment of Ronny Deila’s Celtic career? What are your fondest memories of the Norwegian?