Tre­ble not enough for Deila, says McLeish

‘Europe is the big ex­pec­ta­tion at Celtic’

The Herald - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - GARY KE­OWN

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

Pic­ture: SNS

RE­DEMP­TION OF MAN: Com­mons was soon flavour of the month again af­ter his dou­ble against Dundee United.

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