NOW that the dust has settled on Ronny Deila’s eventful two years in charge of Celtic we thought we’d review his time as our manager. Ronny lasted longer in the job than five previous manager’s. John Barnes, Tony Mowbray and Lou Macari didn’t last a full year and Wim Jansen and Jozef Venglos left after one season. When Ronny’s time was up he left Celtic with a second successive title as manager, adding to the three Neil Lennon won. Celtic thumped Motherwell 7-0, Ronny collected the trophy, celebrated then returned home to Norway. Here is his Celtic story…
RONNY DEILA became the 17th individual to be named Celtic manager when he was appointed as Neil Lennon’s successor on June 6 2014.
The announcement of the largely unknown 38-year-old Norwegian took the football world by surprise and intrigued the Hoops support.
Deila had led Stromsgodset to their first league title in 43 years, had also claimed the national Cup and earned the Coach of the Year award in his homeland. In his six years in charge of his former club, he underlined his ambitions by studying the methods of Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, Liverpool and Manchester City.
However, it didn’t take long for Deila to realise life as coach of Stromsgodset – with a ground capacity of 8,935 – and boss of Celtic were two extremely diverse roles.
In fact, he suffered his first two defeats as Celtic manager – BEFORE he had even seen his team play at Parkhead.
Deila endured his first loss in his third game – the Champions League second qualifier against Legia Warsaw in Poland after beating Iceland’s KR Reyjkavik 5-0 on aggregate at the first hurdle.
Callum McGregor fired the Hoops ahead against the Poles, but it all went disastrously wrong after that with Fraser Forster conceding four goals and Efe Ambrose seeing red.
It got worse in the second leg, played at Murrayfield while the pitch at Parkhead was being relaid following the Commonwealth Games’ closing ceremony.
Legia won 3-0 in the capital, but were found guilty by UEFA of fielding an ineligible player as a substitute in the last two minutes. Celtic were awarded the tie and promptly lost to the Slovenians of NK Maribor to blow their chances of qualifying for the money-spinning group stages.
Again, McGregor got the opening goal, but Maribor fought back to get a 1-1 draw and a late goal in Glasgow finished the job with Deila’s team dropping into the Europa League.
The Norwegian, after a 3-0 win on the opening day of the league season at St Johnstone, saw his players produce a stunning display on his first game at Parkhead as they pulverised Dundee United 6-1.
But the first league defeat was only a week away in the Highlands when a much-changed line-up flopped 1-0 to Inverness Caley Thistle. Young Irishman Eoghan O’Connell put through his own goal.
On October 5 2014, Hamilton shocked them 1-0 for their first win at Parkhead in 76 years with Ali Crawford claiming the glory goal. The loss left the Hoops in sixth place.
Stuart Armstrong, who joined the club along with Gary Mackay-Steven on the last day of the January transfer deadline last year, headed in the winner for Dundee United in their 2-1 success at Tannadice on December 21.
The Europa League campaign kicked off with a 2-2 draw in Salzburg in September which was followed by narrow wins over Dinamo Zagreb (1-0) and FC Astra (2-1) at Parkhead the following month. There was a 1-1 draw away to Astra in Rumania and a shock 3-1 reverse against the Austrians of Salzburg in Glasgow. Dinamo Zagreb won by the odd goal in seven in Croatia in December.
The year came to a halt with a dismal goalless draw against Ross County in Glasgow.
Interesting times lay ahead for Ronny Deila and Celtic in 2015.
RONNY DEILA shook up his Celtic team as he prepared for the challenges of 2015. John Guidetti, the Swedish striker on loan from Manchester City, had already scored 11 goals, including a sparkling hat-trick in the 6-0 League Cup success over Partick Thistle in October.
However, the best he could do on January 5 was a place on the subs’ bench against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. He had Leigh Griffiths for company while Stefan Scepovic, a £2.3million buy from Sporting Gijon in August, led the line and scored one of his six goals for the Hoops in a 2-0 win. Emilio Izaguirre, amazingly, scored the other.
Deila’s reward for Serb frontman Scepovic was to leave him out of his next starting line-up against Hamilton with Griffiths coming into spearhead the attack. It was clear the Norwegian liked to freshen things up, but the rotation system did little to impress the support although, on this occasion, the Hoops were good enough to defeat the Accies 2-0 where Adam Matthews, with an absolute screamer, and Liam Henderson scored the goals.
Celtic went through January unbeaten with a 4-0 success over Motherwell at Parkhead – where Mikael Lustig netted twice – and a 1-0 victory over Ross County in Dingwall where Kris Commons claimed the game’s solitary strike. Four wins, nine goals scored, none conceded and it looked as though the Deila jigsaw was coming together.
February got underway in the most pleasant of circumstances with a League Cup semi-final meeting against “Rangers” at Hampden. Deila enjoyed his first taste of the “unique” atmosphere generated in these collisions as Celtic coasted to a 2-0 victory.
Leigh Griffiths opened the scoring in the seventh minute with a close-range header and Commons doubled the advantage with a ferocious drive high into the net before the interval. Curiously, Celtic eased up in the second-half in a one-sided encounter where the Ibrox side were clearly there for the taking. Deila explained afterwards he was happy for his team to play possession football. Clearly, the Parkhead followers would have loved to have seen more goals.
The Hoops racked up three more league successes over Dundee (2-0), Partick Thistle (3-0) and St Johnstone (2-1) as they prepared for the knock-out stages of the Europa Cup. The capacity crowd was stunned as Inter Milan raced into a two-goal lead inside 15 minutes at Parkhead, but a smart Stuart Armstrong effort and an own goal from Hugo Campagnaro made it all-square.
Craig Gordon, who had replaced fans’ favourite Fraser Forster, sold to Southampton for £10million in August, made a rare error as Rodrigo Palacio scored a third before the turnaround. Guidetti, who came on as a sub, rifled in the leveller in the last minute to give the Hoops hope for the return leg in the San Siro stadium the following week.
In between, Celtic had a 4-0 home win over Hamilton with Guidetti scoring another. The European journey came to an end in Milan in controversial circumstances when Virgil van Dijk was sent off in only 35 minutes following two yellow cards. Fredy Guarin hit the game’s only goal with two minutes remaining.
Celtic returned home and just about stitched up their fourth successive title with an empahtic 4-0 victory over nearest challengers Aberdeen in Glasgow on March 1. Jason Denayer, on loan from Manchester City, Stefan Johansen, Leigh Griffiths and Gary Mackay-Steven shared the goals.
But there was a shock only a few days later when Danny Swanson scored the only goal of the game to hand St Johnstone a 1-0 win at Parkhead. Then came a series of four successive games against Dundee United, culminating Deila’s first piece of silverware as Celtic manager.
“UNTIL I win something, I will be questioned. That just motivates me and I have one goal – to win everything in Scotland.”
The words of Celtic manager Ronny Deila as he prepared his team for the League Cup Final against Dundee United at Hampden on Sunday, March 15 2015.
His first piece of silverware was a mere 90 minutes away against a Tannadice outfit they had drawn 1-1 with in the Scottish Cup the previous week. Former United stars Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven, a joint £2million buy in the January transfer window, had to sit it out after playing for their old club in earlier rounds of the competition. Nadir Ciftci, who got the Tayside club’s winning goal against Aberdeen in the semi-final, was also sidelined through suspension.
All eyes were on the Norwegian as he left John Guidetti on the subs’ bench and gave the vote of confidence to Leigh Griffiths to lead the attack.
Kris Commons netted the crucial breakthrough goal in the 28th minute when he pounced on the loose ball after United keeper Radoslaw Cierzniak had brilliantly parried his original effort.
Jackie McNamara’s side’s cause wasn’t helped when skipper Sean Dillon was given a straight red card from referee Bobby Madden after a reckless challenge on Emilio Izaguirre in the 56th minute.
It was all over in the 78th minute when substitute James Forrest fired the second goal beyond Cierzniak from the edge of the penalty area. However, only minutes later, the Hoops winger fluffed the opportunity to net a third when his tame penalty-kick was saved by the Polish keeper.
Rod Stewart, that well-known Celtic fan, had the pleasure of handing over the League Cup to skipper Scott Brown at the end.
A delighted Deila said: “We should enjoy the moment.” However, looking ahead to the Scottish Cup replay against the same opponents in midweek, he added: “But there is not going to be any nightlife.”
The Tannadice side were dismantled 4-0 in the Cup-tie with central defenders Virgil van Dijk and Jason Denayer among the goals. Commons and Griffiths got the others. However, it wasn’t such a memorable evening for Anthony Stokes who was sent off three minutes from time. Ryan McGowan was also red-carded at the end.
The clubs locked horns again for the fourth successive occasion in the league at Parkhead on March 21 and goals from Denayer, Guidetti and Mackay-Steven wrapped up the points for the champions-elect.
Celtic were on course for the domestic treble so eagerly craved by the club and their new manager. But some disgraceful refereeing derailed the Scottish Cup adventure at the semi-final stage on April 19.
The Hoops looked to be coasting when Van Dijk curled in a delightful free-kick against Inverness Caley Thistle. And the Parkhead men should have been awarded a stonewall penalty-kick before the interval when defender Josh Meekings blatantly palmed away a scoring header from Griffiths.
Match official Steven McLean, who has since admitted he got it wrong, had a perfect view of the incident and, remarkably, waved play on. His goal-line assistant missed the handball, too. Meekings would have had to be sent off and Celtic had the ideal chance to go 2-0 ahead before the turnaround.
The crazy decision turned the game in favour of the fortunate Highlanders. McLean sent off keeper Craig Gordon early in the second-half after he had brought down Marley Watkins. Greg Tansey beat sub keeper Luksaz Zaluska from the resultant penalty-kick and the tie swung the way of John Hughes’ team.
Edward Oferes put Caley Thistle ahead only for Guidetti to level with a free-kick in extra-time. Three minutes from the end, David Raven scored in a breakaway and Deila’s hopes of a hat-trick of trophies in his first season as Celtic boss vanished.
STEFAN SCEPOVIC, bought for £2.3million from Sporting Gijon on the last day of the August transfer window, started only his fourth SPFL game for Celtic during the title party against Inverness Caley Thistle at Parkhead on May 24 2015.
And, remarkably, the Serbian doubled his league tally by netting two goals in the 5-0 romp against the Highlanders, ample revenge for the shock Scottish Cup semi-final dismissal in the most controversial of circumstances the previous month.
But Celtic brought down the curtain on an eventful season for their new manager Ronny Deila and his players. The victory meant the Hoops finished a massive 17 points ahead of nearest challengers Aberdeen with a record of 29 wins, five draws and four defeats. They scored 87 goals and conceded only 17.
Leigh Griffiths also got on the scoresheet against Caley Thistle for his 20th goal of the campaign. Stefan Johansen and Kris Commons got the others. It was a romp in the sunshine in the east end of Glasgow and skipper Scott Brown declared: “We won the title because we are the best team in Scotland. It’s as simple as that. We deserved the success.
“Ten in a row? Who knows? Certainly, there’s more to come from this team and I want to play my part.”
Ronny Deila led the celebrations and said: “It’s another new experience. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a great day and I am just so happy at the moment.
“There is nothing like it and this is just such a good feeling. We have given something back to the fans in a good game, winning 5-0, and we have lifted the trophy, as well. It gives me a lot of motivation for the future.
“We were in total control and didn’t give away any chances and we set another record in only conceding 17 goals, which is very good. We want more of this next season.
“Managing Celtic is a huge responsibility and it makes you so happy when you see the fans excited and proud of your team. That’s what we are looking for in the future and that’s what I will be working hard to achieve.
“The confidence has grown in the players and to finish off in a good way is always important, so I’m delighted. We have a good foundation to build on now and I’m very motivated for next season.
“You can see the team is improving all the time. We are calmer and quicker on the ball and the defence has been very solid over the whole season and particularly in the last 18 or 19 games. I’m happy about that.
“The culture here is important. We have a culture of development and growth and a lot of the players are starting to fulfil their potential. There is so much more to come here. We just have to gain more experience.
“I have developed a lot. It’s been an incredible year. You know who you are and what you believe it, but there are always things to improve and I have improved in a lot of things in the way we play football.
“I have added things from Scottish football, the team around me and the players. Personally, I have learned a lot.
“We are now in a good place. We have a lot of confidence, but everybody knows that we have a tough task ahead of us and that we must take care of our bodies when we are on vacation. We will rest our heads, but make sure we are fit to come back and compete in Europe. I am really excited about that.
“That’s the biggest challenge here at Celtic and it would be magic if we got through. The Inter Milan games were big and we should have gone through that one, but it was a reminder of why I came here, with the atmosphere on those European nights at Celtic Park.”
Swedish striker John Guidetti, with 15 goals, was left out of the final day’s squad against Caley Thistle when he made it clear he would not be signing a permanent deal with the champions. He joined Spanish side Celta Vigo at the end of his contract at Manchester City in the summer.
Ironically, Scepovic, who failed to make an impact at Parkhead, joined Guidetti in the Spanish top flight on a season-long loan deal with Getafe, who would be relegated at the end of a dismal campaign.
The hunt for a new marksman would eventually take Deila back to Dundee United where he had previously purchased Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven in a £2million double deal in January. He paid £1.5million for Nadir Ciftci and the Turk was given the coveted No.7 shirt previously worn by club icons Jimmy Johnstone, Kenny Dalglish and Henrik Larsson.
Hopes were high as a new season beckoned.
RONNY DEILA’S hopes of making an impact in Europe were buried amid the rubble of abject failure. Celtic flopped once more to inferior opposition in the Champions League qualifiers and finished rock-bottom of their Europa League group without a solitary victory in six games.
It wasn’t quite what was expected of the Norwegian in his second season as Celtic manager.
Deila knew the importance of European competition for the club and he realised Champions League football was a priority. That dream was obliterated before August was out.
The Hoops eased past Stjarnan on a 6-1 aggregate, winning home and away against the Icelandic minnows. FK Qarabag were a different proposition and it took a late headed goal from Dedryck Boyata to give the team a slender 1-0 lead to protect in Khazikstan a week later. Celtic, with Craig Gordon in commanding form, held firm for an excellent goalless draw in the away leg.
Deila said: “I am satisfied and you can see we now have something work on.”
However, disaster was just around the corner when Malmo, after going two goals down early on at Parkhead on August 19 with Leigh Griffiths and Nir Bitton, came back to lose only 3-2 with a last-minute goal from Jo Inge Berget, a loan flop who was returned to Cardiff City after only five months in Glasgow. Griffiths headed in the eventual winner in the second-half.
The Hoops’ failure to deal with set-pieces came back to haunt them in the second leg in Sweden. Malmo scored twice from left-wing corner-kicks and Celtic were sent tumbling out of the money-spinning Champions League.
A furious Deila said: “We didn’t want the ball and the players looked frightened and scared. It was very disappointing.”
The Europa League got off to a bright enough start with a 2-2 draw against Ajax in Amsterdam where Bitton and Mikael Lustig scored first-half goals. Emilio Izaguirre was sent off late in the game and Deila said: “That was the turning point. We were doing well until then.”
Cracks were already beginning to appear in the campaign when Celtic, leading 2-0 with goals from Griffiths and Kris Commons, allowed Fenerbahce back into the game at Parkhead and the Turks left with a 2-2 draw. Efe Ambrose, after a dreadful misplaced passback, invited the Turks back into the contest just before the interval.
The next European encounter was the disastrous 3-1 nosedive against Molde. Commons scored the Hoops’ goal before getting involved in a remarkable bust-up with Deila and assistant John Collins following his second-half substitution.
The Celtic boss commented: “We are one team and it is not about one player. That was disrespectful for everyone else.”
A fortnight later, Commons scored again against the Norwegian minnows, but the Hoops, who had Nir Bitton sent off, toppled to an awful 2-1 loss. Deila looked shell-shocked in the fall-out after cries from the frustrated support for his removal.
He said: “I don’t think about my position – that is for other people to write about. I am going to work hard to turn this around.”
Twenty-one days later Celtic lost 2-1 to Ajax for a second successive European defeat at Parkhead and Deila said defiantly: “We are going to be ready for next year. That’s the message to all the fans.”
The Hoops completed a poor campaign with a 1-1 draw against Fenerbahce in Turkey on December 10. The Celtic manager admitted: “We weren’t good enough. As a manager, you can always find someone to point the finger at and make excuses. But, in the whole picture, it’s my fault and I’m going to take that responsibility.”
In the league, Celtic’s main challengers once again were Aberdeen, who managed to beat the champions twice at Pittodrie. The 10-man Dons, with Jonny Hayes red-carded, overcame the Parkhead side 2-1 in September with Paul Quinn netting the winner four minutes from time. And Derek McInnes’ side triumphed again in February with an identical scoreline.
Before the turn of the year, Mark McGhee’s Motherwell took full points in their 2-1 victory in the east end of Glasgow on December 19 and that was followed by two more dropped points in the 2-2 draw with Hearts at Tynecastle.
Celtic’s only other league defeat came against St Johnstone, a 2-1 loss at McDiarmid Park, when the league was already won.
The defence of the League Cup ended in controversy as Efe Ambrose was sent off as Ross County came from behind to win 3-1 in the semi-final at Hampden in January. Once again, Deila’s hope of a domestic treble ended at the national stadium against Highland opposition.
Gary Mackay-Steven had fired the Parkhead men into the lead in 26 seconds. Ambrose missed two clear-cut headers within the next 10 minutes before he was red-carded after a clumsy challenge on Alex Schalk. Martin Woods scored from the penalty-kick, Paul Quinn headed a second and Schalk drilled in the third. Leigh Griffiths squandered a lifeline late on when he was wasteful with a penalty-kick.
The Scottish Cup was another horror story. Celtic, with goals from Erik Sviatchenko and Tom Rogic, could only draw 2-2 in the semi-final with Championship side “Rangers” before losing 5-4 on penalty-kicks in the shoot-out. Three days later Celtic made the announcement that Ronny Deila would leave the club at the end of the season.
RONNY DEILA’S eventful two-year reign as Celtic manager came to a halt at the full-time whistle in the final league game of the season against Motherwell on Sunday, May 15. The 7-0 victory gave the Hoops their fifth successive Premiership title and was a fitting send-off for a decent human being.
The previous month, on April 20, Celtic made the announcement that the Norwegian was on his way.
In the official Press release, they stated: “Celtic Football Club today announced that Celtic Manager Ronny Deila has decided to leave the Club at the end of the season. Ronny has already led Celtic to a League and Cup double last season and is currently aiming to deliver Celtic’s fifth consecutive Premiership title.”
Ronny Deila said: “It is vital that the Club comes first and instead of me being the focus, hopefully now the team and the Club can be the focus as we enter this final important period of the season.
“It was an absolute privilege to be named manager of Celtic, such a wonderful football club, and I have enjoyed my time here immensely. I will never forget the welcome I received almost two years ago at Celtic Park from so many fans. When I joined Celtic I knew I was coming to one of the world’s great football clubs.
“There have been some great times and I am delighted that we have brought some trophies to the Club.
“I was delighted in my first year to bring our fans a League and Cup double and enjoy some European nights at Celtic Park, and I am pleased this season to be well in contention to win another Premiership title.
“There have been some disappointments and times when we have not achieved what we had hoped for and I’m realistic and honest enough to admit that, but I know that the players, myself and my backroom team have always given everything we had to bring success to our supporters.
“I would like to thank everyone who has supported me so well at the Club. The fans have been magnificent during the past two years. Our fans are the heartbeat of the Club, they have always given myself and the team such amazing support and always created such a great atmosphere. We have always given our best for them and I will always be a Celtic supporter too.
“I also want to thank Dermot Desmond, Ian Bankier, Peter Lawwell, the players and my staff. They have given me everything.
“My total focus now is on retaining our Premiership title and making it five-in-a-row for our great club and proving that we are the best in the country. Myself and the players will be giving everything we can to achieve this and I know that starting on Sunday we must all unite and drive the Club on and really go for what we all want as Celtic supporters – to be Scottish Champions once again.”
Celtic Chairman Ian Bankier said: “I would like to thank Ronny for his contribution to the Club and, on behalf of the Celtic Board, give him our best wishes for the future in everything he does.
“Ronny is a fine man with strong values of honesty and integrity. He has had some success, which we have enjoyed, and I know all our fans will back Ronny and the players as he looks to bring us more success in the shape of a second League title.
“We are all Celtic supporters and we all know that there can be disappointments in football, but I know Ronny is a man who has given his very best to the job and someone who will always care passionately about the Club.
“The Club, as always, will give Ronny our full support until the end of the season. We will then make a decision regarding our next manager with the objective of remaining Scotland’s pre-eminent Club. I thank Ronny and once again wish him well for the future.”
Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell said: “Ronny has given everything to Celtic during the past two years and we thank him for his contribution to the Club. He is a man of real humility, someone of tremendous character, and I personally wish him nothing but success for the future.
“In the immediate future that means the Scottish Premiership title. Ronny has won it already once before and I know everyone at the Club and our supporters will be right behind him and the team as he aims to do it again and make it five-in-a-row for Celtic.
“This is what we all must do now as supporters and together focus fully on achieving another title victory. If we achieve this we will aim to build again next season and make it many more.
“I would like to take this chance to thank our fans for all they have given the Club this year. Celtic has been the dominant Club in Scotland for many years and I can assure our supporters we will do everything we can to ensure that Celtic continues to be the biggest and best in Scottish football and meets every challenge which lies ahead.”
On the last day of the season, with the sun shining on the east end of Glasgow, Deila witnessed the 7-0 triumph over Motherwell, his last time in the Parkhead dug-out.
Minutes after the final whistle, an emotional Deila was asked if Celtic could win the league again the following season. Without hesitation, he replied: “Yes, I am sure they can make it six. There is so much talent. It is hard work and you have to be innovative all the time, be ahead of the development.
“We are 15 points ahead after Aberdeen lost today and that gap is tough to close. I don’t think that will happen next year.”
He watched Jack Atchison become the youngest player in the club’s history at the age of 16 years and 71 days as he went on as a late sub and scored with his first kick of the ball for the seventh goal.
Kieran Tierney and Ryan Christie also marked the occasion with their first goals for the club and Tom Rogic, Mikael Lustig, Stuart Armstrong and Patrick Roberts also found the net as Celtic ran amok.
Deila said: “You can see when they play free how good they can be. You saw that today. They play without pressure and you see what is coming out.
“What is important is fans and everybody understands how important it is to give the young players and all the players all the support to get the best out of them.
“They have to manage to play under that pressure, as well. That’s the next stage for the lot of them.
“I am very happy with the young players. KT scored his first goal and it won’t be his last. Jack came in and was very good. Ryan is very talented.
“Maybe I should have used him more before, but we had to get over the line with the trusted players with more experience. I told him he would get his chance and he will be important to the club in the future.”
Deila admitted it was tough to say goodbye. He added: “I don’t think many would say no to a job like this. This is an exclusive job and something that is a special thing.
“What’s important is the club is taking the right choice now and getting the right coach in who can build on what we have started.”
Hours after the final whistle and the last Ronny Roar, John Collins, who also left the club as assistant manager, drove Ronny Deila to Glasgow Airport as he flew back to Norway, his great Celtic adventure finally at an end.
One thing is certain. Ronny Deila will ALWAYS be welcome at Celtic Park.