Treble not enough for Deila, says McLeish
‘Europe is the big expectation at Celtic’
ALEX McLEISH has warned Ronny Deila that he must start winning in Europe because even a domestic treble in the current climate will not be enough to satisfy the demands that exist at Celtic.
Deila has failed in two attempts to lead the Ladbrokes Premiership titleholders to the group stage of the Champions League and is now under pressure in the wake of the 3-1 away defeat to Norwegians Molde which left them rooted to the bottom of their Europa League section.
The Celtic manager still has a chance of lifting all three domestic trophies, but McLeish, who was the last man to win a Treble with Rangers in 2003 and also took the Ibrox club to the last 16 of the Champions League, believes there is now real pressure on him to prove himself at a higher level.
Having lost out to Maribor of Slovenia and Swedish side Malmo in the play-off round for the Champions League, nothing other than a victory over Molde at Parkhead next Thursday can be termed acceptable for Deila.
“I’m not going to speculate on Ronny’s future, but he has got to beat these teams,” said McLeish.
“At Celtic, your spending power is probably bigger than theirs, so is it then an indictment on the Scottish league that the Swedish league is better? That it is more competitive for Malmo. Is it more competitive in Norway for Molde?
“These are the hurdles Celtic have to get over, starting in the next home game. I think Ronny has to be beating these teams. I’m not trying to put pressure on him. I just know, having been there as a manager, that would be the same expectation for me.
“I’m sure Ronny would appreciate that coming from someone else who has been through that kind of situation. Even if you win domestically just now, it might not be enough. Europe is the big expectation and winning domestically is taken for granted. It’s like down south if Arsene Wenger wins the League Cup. Most Arsenal fans wouldn’t be happy with that. That wouldn’t be success in their eyes. In Scotland, domestic success is taken as read for Celtic at the moment. That’s why everyone with Celtic at heart and Scottish football needs Celtic to succeed in Europe. That is the pressure that’s on them.
“When Celtic and Rangers were in the league together, in my day, winning the treble would have compensated if things hadn’t gone to plan in Europe. Maybe now, what is much more important to Celtic is Europe. They should be winning the three trophies domestically, but I understand it’s easier said than done.”
McLeish completed his domestic clean sweep against a Celtic side, managed by Martin O’Neill, that reached the final of the UEFA Cup.
Deila’s Celtic do not face anything like that level of competition and McLeish insists that is why a Treble earned by a Celtic manager in this era, where Rangers are no longer a top-flight force, cannot be looked upon in the same light.
“When Rangers and Celtic are going head-to-head in the way they were in that period, it’s extremely difficult to win a treble because the teams are so evenly matched,” he said. “It should be within Celtic’s grasp.
“They are by far the biggest spenders in the league, they have by far the strongest squad and, if they have injuries, they have people who can come in and cover.”
IT is such a topsy-turvy existence inside the maelstrom of Old Firm life that the one incident which has placed Ronny Deila’s future at Celtic under such stringent examination may also be the one which propels the club towards a fifth consecutive league title.
Kris Commons’ meltdown in Molde raised all manner of questions over the degree of control the Norwegian has over first-team matters at the Parkhead side.
The nature of that 3-1 defeat in his homeland, the inadequacy of the performance and the continuing failure to perform defensive basics, led to a group of supporters gathering around the team bus after time-up to let Deila know that the novelty of the ‘Ronny Roar’ is beginning to wear a little thin in the wake of another disastrous expedition in Europe.
The removal of Commons for Nadir Ciftci with 14 minutes remaining was, undoubtedly, a catalyst for that unusual show of dissent.
Commons had briefly hauled Celtic back into the game by scoring to make it 2-1 and certainly appeared one of the players more capable of rescuing something from a truly dire evening.
The travelling support could barely comprehend the decision to remove him from the play. As for Commons, his tirade at the management team both as he left the field and as he took his seat in the technical area has been dissected in detail and most definitely hinted at a greater disquiet behind the scenes.
Make no mistake, this will all return to centre stage should Molde repeat the dose at Celtic Park next Thursday. Europe is where Deila will make or break his reputation.
For the moment, though, domestic issues reign supreme and the former Rangers manager, Alex McLeish, believes the need to clear the air after Commons’ most public outburst may actually have strengthened the defending champions at a key point in the race for the title.
Commons apologised for his behaviour the day after the Molde game. After scoring twice in a 5-0 win over Dundee United next time out, Deila hugged him on the touchline and retained him in the nucleus of his side for the midweek League Cup quarter-final win over Hearts.
Celtic are beginning to look like a team channelling their anger in the right direction and McLeish suspects that spells bad news for his former club, Aberdeen, as they head to Glasgow tomorrow in the hope of ending a dreadful run that has brought just one point from four league games and left all hope of an unlikely championship triumph hanging by a thread.
“The incident with Commons has probably galvanised Celtic and that is bad news for the rest of the Scottish league,” stated McLeish. “It was such a big talking point. I was covering the game for a TV station down in England and I was all ready to analyse the goals.
“They told me to forget the goals and talk about Commons. In a bizarre way, it has helped Celtic as is so often the case in football. He quickly apologised, scored two goals against Dundee United and the whole Celtic team are buzzing again. Things like that can bring everyone back together.”
Quite what has happened to destroy what was developing at Aberdeen remains open to conjecture. Certainly, they are a shadow of the team that opened the campaign with eight straight victories and McLeish believes they are up against it as they endeavour to close the four-point gap that has opened up at the head of the Ladbrokes Premiership.
“Celtic have a bit of momentum again in the league, if not in Europe,” he said. “They’ve still got a chance in Europe with the games they’ve got at home, but they are certainly going well domestically. I think it will be hard for the Dons this weekend. They’ll need to summon every ounce of mental strength they can. They’ve beaten Celtic already this season so the evidence is there, but they’re on a pretty bad run after the most phenomenal run of form. To go to Celtic Park and win, you need to really believe. I’m sure Derek McInnes will have them going there with that kind of attitude.”
McLeish, of course, has a special interest in this most appealing of weekends. As first play second in the Premiership, the same situation exists in the league below.
Hibernian play host to Rangers in the Championship on Sunday in the knowledge that a win would reduce the gap between them to a manageable five points. The 56-year-old enjoyed profitable spells as manager of both clubs and believes it is crucial that Alan Stubbs’ side send out a real signal of intent having lost twice to the Ibrox club already this season.
“Hibs got a couple of results last year, but Rangers are a revitalised team,” he stated. “Their confidence is sky high. Hibs now have to go and make a statement. They have to try to set down a marker. It’s like me, when I was at Hibs, going head-to-head with Dick Advocaat and all the fantastic players he had at the time.
“We proved it was possible and that’s what Stubbsy needs – one of those really big results. If they are to make a mark, they can’t say: ‘Forget Rangers, let’s beat everybody else.” McLeish has been impressed by the work carried out by Mark Warburton and his assistant, David Weir, in rebuilding Rangers and puts much of that down to the new players they have based their project around.
“The turnover in personnel was very important and you have to credit them for their choice of players they have brought in,” he said.
“I think English guys always seem to be a wee bit more arrogant – and I don’t mean that in a bad way – than Scottish guys.
“I am talking about their general confidence and approach, so I think there have been a few shrewd signings, good players, from England’s lower divisions and some good loan players.
“For me, half the manager’s job is getting recruitment right.”
GRIM REALITY: domestic success will not be enough for Ronny Deila at Celtic
REDEMPTION OF MAN: Commons was soon flavour of the month again after his double against Dundee United.