Ronny Deila has al­most used up all his lives

The Herald - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW LIND­SAY

It is hardly the track record of a man you would en­trust with steer­ing a club through to the group stages of the Cham­pi­ons League

IN YEARS gone by, a Celtic or a Rangers boss had the chance to re­deem him­self fol­low­ing fail­ure in Europe by edg­ing out his club’s Old Firm ri­vals in the Scot­tish ti­tle race. Wal­ter Smith, who led Rangers to what was ef­fec­tively the semi fi­nal of the first ever Cham­pi­ons League in 1993 as well as to the fi­nal of the UEFA Cup in 2008, knew his side be­ing crowned cham­pi­ons was his most im­por­tant goal ev­ery sea­son.

Out­per­form­ing Celtic do­mes­ti­cally gen­er­ally pla­cated any sup­port­ers who may have taken against Smith as a re­sult of early exits from con­ti­nen­tal com­pe­ti­tion — of which there were also a few dur­ing his first spell in charge.

Oth­ers to oc­cupy the dugout at Ibrox and Park­head both be­fore and since, in­clud­ing Dick Ad­vo­caat, Neil Len­non, Alex McLeish and Gor­don Stra­chan, have found ex­actly the same to be true. Get­ting one over on hated city ri­vals tended to en­dear them to fans and en­sure their con­tin­ued em­ploy­ment.

Un­for­tu­nately for Ronny Deila, he won’t be able to atone for Celtic’s loss to Ajax on Thurs­day and fail­ure to reach the last 32 of the Europa League for the sec­ond sea­son run­ning by win­ning the Premier­ship this term.

If Deila’s men come first in the top flight for the fifth suc­ces­sive year then sup­port­ers will, de­spite cel­e­brat­ing the tri­umph, not ex­actly be over­come with awe or grat­i­tude. Their spend­ing power is so su­pe­rior to their chal­lengers that it would be a sack­able of­fence if there was any other out­come.

Win­ning the tre­ble — some­thing which only two other man­agers have done be­fore in the 127-year his­tory of Celtic — in the 2015/16 cam­paign would cer­tainly be a far more sig­nif­i­cant ac­com­plish­ment.

Nev­er­the­less, the di­min­ished con­di­tion of Rangers would make land­ing the League Cup, Scot­tish Cup and Scot­tish ti­tle a lesser achieve­ment than when Jock Stein did it in 1967 and 1969 or when Martin O’Neill presided over a clean sweep in 2001.

Deila, whose un­doubted rap­port with the Celtic sup­port­ers has not pre­vented many of them, the vast ma­jor­ity of them in fact, from call­ing for the man­ager to be re­placed, can only weaken his po­si­tion in the months ahead, not strengthen it.

He is in a pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion. Celtic’s show­ings in Group A against or­di­nary op­po­nents have been far from con­vinc­ing. The back-to-back de­feats to Molde were em­bar­rass­ing, in­ept and, most alarm­ingly of all for fans, naïve.

The 40-year-old hasn’t dis­played that he has learned from his ex­pe­ri­ences and ma­tured as a coach. The show­ing against Ajax was, given that four key play­ers — Nir Bit­ton, Scott Brown, Kris Com­mons and Ste­fan Jo­hansen — were ab­sent through in­jury and sus­pen­sion, ac­tu­ally not that bad. But the dam­age had al­ready been done.

The statistics are damn­ing. Celtic have been un­able to win any of their five group games in the Europa League this sea­son and are bot­tom of their sec­tion. They have failed to tri­umph in their last ten out­ings in the com­pe­ti­tion. Dur­ing that ab­ject run, they have con­ceded 23 goals.

It is hardly the track record of a man you would en­trust with steer­ing a foot­ball club through to the group stages of the Cham­pi­ons League, some­thing worth in ex­cess of £20mil­lion, es­pe­cially af­ter two prior fail­ures. Or so you would think.

An em­phatic en­dorse­ment from Peter Lawwell, the Celtic chief ex­ec­u­tive, at the Park­head club’s AGM ten days ago sug­gest that the charis­matic Scan­di­na­vian will be kept on de­spite this lat­est fail­ure.

“He is a de­vel­oper, he is a builder, he is a creator of play­ers and teams,” said Lawwell. “That takes time. I don’t think you can have a knee-jerk re­ac­tion to some­thing that has hap­pened over two or three games. We tend to look af­ter our peo­ple here at Celtic and we look af­ter the man­ager in par­tic­u­lar and we give them time to progress.”

The un­usual land­scape of Scot­tish foot­ball and the un­prece­dented po­si­tion Celtic find them­selves in should mean that Ronny Deila sur­vives. But stum­ble in the league or go out of a cup and that could change.

AND AN­OTHER THING. . .

Dave King’s as­ser­tion that Rangers are one of the strong­est foot­ball clubs fi­nan­cially in the world last week caused, de­spite the fact it wasn’t the first time he had made the claim, much mirth among the sup­port­ers of Celtic and other Scot­tish clubs.

But two other pro­nounce­ments at the Ibrox club’s AGM at the Clyde Au­di­to­rium on Fri­day morn­ing were, for me, far more in­ter­est­ing. Firstly, that re­ly­ing on soft loans from wealthy sup­port­ers to off­set losses wasn’t sus­tain­able in the long term. Se­condly, that win­ning pro­mo­tion to the Premier­ship this sea­son is cru­cial.

King has, along with Ge­orge Letham, Dou­glas Park and Ge­orge Tay­lor, sup­plied the £2.5m needed to keep Rangers afloat un­til the end of the sea­son. But their bene­fac­tors can’t keep dip­ping into their pock­ets.

How­ever, if Mark War­bur­ton’s side fails to go up in the sum­mer they will re­quire to be­cause there will be no in­creased rev­enue from ad­ver­tis­ing, broad­cast­ing, hospi­tal­ity, spon­sor­ship and ticket sales.

It was a re­minder of how im­por­tant on-field suc­cess is this term and the pres­sure on War­bur­ton to suc­ceed.

TO­MOR­ROW Nick Rodger

PRE­CAR­I­OUS PO­SI­TION: Ronny Deila hasn’t dis­played that he has learned from his ex­pe­ri­ences at Celtic so far

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