Beware the Risen People
It didn’t come as much of a surprise that Ronny Deila decided to end his period in charge of Celtic at the end of the season. This immensely decent and likeable man has had a hard lesson in the pressures and expectations which come when you manage a club the size of Celtic. He said in July 2014 shortly after arriving at Celtic Park…
“When you do this, you sacrifice everything. My kids wanted me to do this, though, and I couldn’t say no. They knew I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t come here. But ask any big manager if they made sacrifices and they’ll all say yes. This is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s 24 hours a day, thinking all the time. You can say you’re going home but you’re always doing the job, thinking about it. There are so many decisions to make all the time that it has to be that way.’’
Deila promised back then to develop the players and play a brand of attacking football in keeping with the club’s traditions. In that fateful summer of 2014 when the team played so poorly against Legia Warsaw he was cut some slack by the majority of supporters who rightly suggested that he needed time to construct a team and a pattern of play. The title was duly won 2014-15 after some stuttering performances but in fairness bizarre refereeing in the cup semi-final with Inverness contributed to the loss of a potential treble. This season Europe was fairly disastrous and a resurgent Aberdeen hung onto Celtic’s coat tails for most of the season. Deila has 5 games left and an 8 point advantage and should hopefully steer Celtic to their 5th consecutive title. Some of the play this season has been poor as he admitted himself in a very frank interview which appeared on Celtic TV. The lack of progress this past six months wasn’t what he or Celtic had hoped for. He said in rather prophetic tones back in 2014…
‘I am not afraid to lose. I would rather lose than play bad football. We are talking Celtic Park now. When you are away, sometimes you have to be more cautious. We attack and entertain the fans but also we have to be very good in the transition, we have to come back and get together and be compact. At home, though, we will not be like that: we will attack. When you meet the very good teams like Barcelona, I understand you have to defend. But when we play in the league, every time we go out onto the pitch we will play to entertain and you entertain when you try to attack.”
For some fans the 4-2-3-1 was alien to Celtic’s attacking traditions but systems are only part of the story and the players must bear some responsibility for not seeing out some vital games in Europe and at home. Hampden was a problematic venue for Neil Lennon’s Celtic and Deila’s team look uncomfortable there too. Last week’s penalty shootout loss to the new club was in some ways the final straw for many supporters. The team had 33 attempts on goal and contrived to lose the tie. It was typical of Deila’s luck at times but his team simply hasn’t looked convincing and his seeming inability to change things when the team struggle was obvious on many occasions. They don’t carry enough threat up front or possess enough solidity at the back and the midfield is inconsistent and lightweight. There is some real talent at Celtic Park but perhaps it needs a guy who engenders a little fear in the players to bring out the best in them. Paul McStay was close to the mark this week when he said…
“When we were doing badly in the 1990s it wasn’t down to a lack of endeavour on our part. On Sunday, maybe, there was effort there but not collectively, not as a team. I can understand the supporters’ frustrations and they’ll be disappointed, as I was, not just by the fact we lost, but more how the team went about their business. The fitness wasn’t there at all on Sunday. That’s why Rangers took control of the game – because Celtic weren’t pressing. That high intensity wasn’t there. The fitness side surprised me. I was thinking, ‘why aren’t they pressing? Are these part of the tactics, are they sitting off?’ But as the game went on I thought a few of the players looked tired. They looked as if they were dying on their feet and that was after 70 minutes. So to do that high-pressure game you’ve got to be fit so that comes down to what players do on the training pitch. In my experience, you train the way you want to play. If you train and play at a high intensity in small games, I’d imagine you take that into the game. Maybe they are fit. But on Sunday it certainly didn’t look like it.”
That lack of fitness and cohesion mentioned by McStay is a damning indictment. I have supported giving Deila a chance to build his team but after two years he admitted himself in a very honest interview with Celtic TV that progress was not all it should be. I wish him well and I hope we drive on to another title and see him off with a last hurrah. He deserves that much.
Whether Ronny jumped before he was pushed is open to debate but a significant number of Celtic fans were not impressed with the style of play or performances in key games. Having lived through some dire seasons as a Celtic fan I was somewhat surprised at the reaction of a small minority online to the developing situation. The semi-final loss seemed to tilt some over the edge and warp their sense of perspective. A sense of entitlement more often seen among ‘rapeepo’ seems to have developed among some and with the team heading for 5 in a row for only the third time in 128 years there was ridiculous talk of walking out of the next home game and even a ludicrous and possibly bogus ‘Celts for Change 2’ Twitter Account appeared. Having been around when Celtic’s board ran the club into the ground and the team went years without winning a major honour, there was a need for real change in the early 1990s. Can we really say such a revolution is required today? A huge change in emphasis from the board and our major shareholder would suffice. Give us a strong manager and some experienced players to lift the side up a level and the support will be much more content.
With season books due for renewal and some holding fire until they see the new manager unveiled, it’s time for the Celtic board to show some ambition and inspire the support again. The new man will need adequate funds to mould the team into one with a tougher mentality. He will also need to be ruthless in showing the door to any underachievers. Celtic supporters have shown before that they will take action if they feel the club is not progressing in the manner it should. They recognise the need for financial realism in the limiting world of Scottish football finance but they are wise enough to know we could and should be better than we currently are.
It’s 100 years since Padraig Pearse warned the British in a very different context to ‘beware the risen people. The Celtic board likewise must not take the supporters for granted or discontent can quickly escalate. We should now push on and clinch our 5th successive title and get a new man in place in order to build towards the Champions League qualifiers in July. Give us some hope Celtic, some signs that the downsizing is at an end. Our passion for the club will always lead to us demanding progress on the field. There are big challenges ahead and the club should demonstrate that they are ready to meet them head on.
I hope the team, fans and custodians of the club unite behind the new manager whoever he may be and demonstrate again that when Celtic and their fans are in harmony they are a powerful force to be reckoned with.
Thank you Ronny for your efforts, we wish you well in the future. The history books will record that you brought honours to Celtic Park. You gave your all and that is all we can ask.
It is however almost time for a new chapter to begin. Hail Hail