Ronny Deila has almost used up all his lives
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