Sunday 20 January 2019

Deila: It kills me that the team have not improved

Out-going Celtic Manager Ronny Deila. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA
Out-going Celtic Manager Ronny Deila. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA

Roddy Forsyth

It can be said of Ronny Deila at Celtic that nothing became him like the leaving of it. The performance he gave yesterday in following the announcement that he would leave at the end of the season made compelling theatre.

When the sun shines upon the Hoops' Lennoxtown facility amid the Campsie Hills it is a contender for most photogenic football training base in the UK. Yesterday the brilliant sunshine outside forced TV crews to budget for unaccustomed glare.

Inside, Deila unblinkingly faced his interrogators and, in a performance of startling candour, admitted that he had realised six months ago that he could no longer advance Celtic's cause on the pitch.

That much was evident to the fans at around the same time, as a lamentable Europa League campaign continued to unravel and domestic performances became sluggish.

"You have asked me many times about improvements and I haven't answered those questions really well over the last month," Deila said. "That's why, in the end, it kills me that I don't think the team have improved in the last six months.

"We have lost important games and there has been more and more pressure on me. That also affects the players and the surroundings.

"I haven't got the results and improvement I wanted, so I wanted to give everyone an answer. Now we can focus on the last five games. That's the most important thing for the club and for me - to get the results and win the league.

"When the team is not taking steps, you have to look at yourself in the mirror and ask, 'What is happening here?' I have tried for a long time but you can't keep on. You have to think about the club.

"Hopefully the club will be going into a Champions League qualifying campaign and with the two defeats in the two previous years, there would be even more pressure.

"It is good for the club to get new energy in for the start of next season, because I really care for the club. I will always be a supporter.

"The pressure comes when you don't get results. I know if my team got results, I would turn it around and there would be good headlines again.

"We should have kept momentum, but that hasn't happened and it's my responsibility. I tried, but in the end, there is so much fuss and noise around it, that it is affecting the whole club."

Deila spoke specifically about issues which have animated his critics, such as a bloated squad, player acquisitions and his relationship with key players, such as Kris Commons, who was kept on the bench during Sunday's defeat by Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final.

"I sign the players. I have the final decision," Deila said. "The squad has been a little bit too big in the last months. It can be hard to keep motivation up when you have too many players but it's not like I feel there are big conflicts with anybody.

"When we have a good result you never hear anything about Kris. I have no issues with Kris at all. I've given him many, many chances, he's had good performances and OK performances."

Asked if the job had been too big for a man unexpectedly plucked from Stromsgodset in the Norwegian backwoods, Deila said: "You can say that I haven't made a mess of it but I think I could've done a better job as well.

"My stats are not that bad. When you win 65pc of your games it is quite OK. I don't think I will ever have that at another club in my life - unless I take over at Barcelona and do fantastic! But the important games we have lost.

"In two cup semi-finals we had red cards, then a penalty shoot-out against Rangers. Those are small things but you have luck when you have the extra quality as well.

"It is very easy for a coach to say, 'Ah, the players haven't done what I asked and haven't performed as I wanted'. But there is a reason why they haven't done that and the coach is an unbelievably important factor. I know I'm a great coach and I know I'm going to be a great coach in the future. I don't blame my players. I haven't made some of them as good as they can be."

So, supposing David Moyes - or Roy Keane, Michael O'Neill, Steve Evans, Brendan Rodgers or any of the other candidates being touted as his successor - should ask for his assessment of the position, would Deila give it the thumbs up?

"Of course," he said. "I would do it 100 times again if I got the chance, if I ever got the same opportunity. I would never, ever regret it. It's been unbelievable. It's a privilege to be the Celtic manager."

There are searching questions to be asked about the Celtic board's strategy in recent years but for the moment the Parkhead directors should be profoundly grateful that, as he walked off into the unseasonal warmth, Deila should have so obligingly taken the heat off them. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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