Celtic's Ronny Deila regrets he never faced Rangers in league
Ronny Deila admitted last night that he regrets having to quit as the only Celtic manager never to have faced Rangers in a league campaign.
Barring a wholly unlikely collapse in the five remaining Scottish Premiership games, the 40-year-old Norwegian will leave at the end of the season after steering Celtic to a second successive championship and the club’s fifth in a row.
However, his time is more notable for failure to make the Champions League group stage, two dismal Europa League campaigns and three defeats in domestic semi-finals, the most damaging of which was last Sunday’s William Hill Scottish Cup loss to Rangers.
That setback alone did not seal Deila’s fate but it was a reminder of the climate he would have had to work in – for better or worse – over a full league schedule with Rangers as contenders.
“Yes, of course, that’s something you always think but, listen, this club will get a lot more opportunities to do that and the team will bounce back. I know that,” he said, ahead of today’s home match against Ross County. “I don’t feel we’ve created what we could have done.
“At the same time the pressure’s building and it’s getting harder to get what you want. It’s fun when the team’s playing well all the time and improving consistently, but when you’re not getting that, it’s not fun to play.
“I’ve been here two years now. We were on a great run last year, we hardly lost a game after Christmas and went into Europe very strong, but the bad performance in Malmo, when we lost the Champions League play-off, changed things.
“After that, Virgil van Dijk wanted to go, we’d already lost Jason Denayer and things became very difficult. I can be honest about that. That’s why the decision was made but, again, I can look myself in the mirror and say I’ve done everything I can. I’ve really pushed everybody and had that drive all the time.”
Mark Warburton expressed his surprise this week that Deila should have been under such pressure while Celtic are overwhelming favourites to win another title.
The Rangers manager also stated that his Old Firm counterpart must have been given a target at the beginning of the campaign, the priority of which could only be the championship.
“The goals were always clear,” Deila said. “I came in and stated I wanted to win everything here and also compete in the Champions League.
“I also wanted to develop the team and play attractive football. Well, I don’t think it has been so good as it was last year. I think then that I was proud.
“It felt like we had a very good team who were growing, but we haven’t done it in the good way we did last year.”
The size of Celtic’s squad has been an issue as has the signing of strikers such as Nadir Ciftci, Carlton Cole and Colin Kazim-Richards, none of whom made an impact, while other acquisitions such as Scott Allan and Ryan Christie have scarcely been seen. Since Deila previously claimed to have had the final say on signings, he must presumably accept responsibility for allowing the squad to become bloated and unwieldy.
“That’s a decision I made and could have done better,” he said. “There’s a lot of quality in this side and players have improved a lot under me. Some players haven’t improved so much and that could be their fault but, in the overall view, it’s my responsibility as a leader and as head of everything.
This is psychology, it’s leadership, it’s football, it’s coaching, it’s a lot of things. Who’s to blame? Again, the main guy is me.”
Asked how he would like to be remembered by the Celtic support, Deila said: “That I am passionate, honest, worked really hard, that I’m a humble guy who always took time with people and that I know what I’m talking about.
“Also remember me for the good times and there have been many. A 65 per cent win ratio is OK. I won’t have that at any other club.
“Hopefully, we can win our third trophy in two years, which is more than some get in their whole lives.”
And if he could sit down with the Ronny Deila of two years ago, what advice would he give himself?
“Take the experiences you have now Ronny,” he said. “But it will be the same whether it is Brendan Rodgers or whoever comes in next. Celtic is a tough place to manage. I don’t think this job is much easier than being manager of Liverpool.
“I leave here with a lot of positive memories and a love for the club. I have left clubs before when I didn’t feel that.”