At Hampden on Sunday, Tom Rogic stepped up to take a spot kick in a sudden death shoot out, his effort sailed high and wide, carrying with it any faint hope Ronny Deila had of remaining at Celtic next season.
During the game I had shouted and screamed at the Celtic players to pass it better, tackle harder and was desperate for them to get the win but all those feelings dissipated almost instantly as Rogic’s spot kick bounced down Aikenhead Road and were replaced with a sense of relief, it was all over, the Deila experiment was confirmed a failure.
Yesterday Celtic confirmed what everyone already knew, that Ronny would leave at the end of the season. After two years in charge, it wasn’t supposed to be like this, it all sounded so good when he was appointed! The sales pitch was brilliant, he would implement a strict diet and fitness regime that would make our players fitter than the opposition allowing us to punch above our now decreased weight. He would develop and produce a team of young Scots, no loan signings he said, he wasn’t interested in developing players for anyone else and he would bring in his own backroom staff. You can understand why he was given the chance.
Someone really should have had a word with him before that initial press conference tho and explained to him how things would work, apparently he worked mainly as a coach at Stormogodset with a director of football making the signings, something I’m sure appealed to the board when considering him for the role, however he was almost instantly saddled with John Collins as his assistant and handed a variety of loan signings like Wakaso, Tonev, Guidetti and Jason Denayer. His authority undermined immediately. I said at the time that his new regime would need to have everyone on board with his philosophy or they would need to be jettisoned regardless of who the player was. Thinking back to Paul Le Guen and the damage the addictive nature of Monster Munch did to his reign, but really, what chance did he have of when even from day 1 the board were not 100% committed to his plan or philosophy? Rather than no loan signings we seem to be now a feeder club for Man City, would you honestly be surprised if our new manager was a promising Man City youth coach on a 1 year loan deal?
I’ve heard people say that the players need to take some responsibility, that they had “stopped playing for the manager” but this annoys me every time I hear it, as getting the team to play for you is a massive part of being a manager, motivation is your job, if you can’t do it, then you have to take the blame. It’s pretty obvious that Commons, while undoubtedly one of our most talented players was not one of Deila’s favourites, for whatever reason, however he was still handed a new contract, which after signing he commented that Deila’s demands of fitness had come as a shock to the players! Professional athletes being expected to be fit… outrageous. The Commons-Molde incident should have ended one of two ways, either expulsion from first team squad or sort out their differences and use him, instead he was allowed to stick around to be used rarely.
While questions should be asked of the higher-ups at Celtic, Ronnie really did himself no favours whatsoever, the game against Rangers was a microcosm of the reign in general, bizarre player selections and the strict adherence to the 4-5-1 which punctuated his regime. He would repeatedly say in interviews after horrible defeats that “we would learn the lessons” but literally nothing has changed in two years. There is nothing wrong with 4-5-1 as a formation but you need the correct players to fit it. The left wing position has been filled by guys like Stokes, Armstrong, Allan, Griffiths and Kazim-Richards. How many of them are natural wide players? Even when his defence (through injuries, granted) contained the truly awful pairing of Boyata and Ambrose, there was no attempt to protect them, play the same wide open way and live with the consequences.
His starting line up on Sunday contained the aforementioned Boyata, along with Scott Brown, Stefan Johansen and Gary Mackay-Steven, another big game and he once again turned to the guys who have let him down in every big game throughout the season, I want GMS to work out but sadly he looks like a guy who can turn it on in the easy games but not when the chips are down… well… he disappeared at Pittodrie so what exactly did Ronnie think would happen on Sunday? Johansen has been a shadow of the man who won player of the year last season, but plays ahead of Rogic, Brown was involved in everything, missing a sitter, setting up Miller, getting a great view of McKay’s goal as he went past him like he wasn’t there then stepping up to hit a penalty Diana Ross would have been embarrassed by. Perhaps the worst of all tho is Boyata ahead of Sviatchenko, he may have argued that Sviatchenko was injured but I would have played him in a wheelchair before trusting Boyata with the jersey. It’s telling that the two goal scorers, who almost got him a stay of execution, were two guys he didn’t think deserved to start.
So a title-winning manager will leave the club in the summer, the first that the support will unanimously be happy to see go. Over 38 games the fact that Celtic have a far better squad than the rest of the league mean it should be a given that they win the league at present, however, we very nearly managed to make a mess of that. Fans could accept defeats along the way if there was some evidence that we were progressing and moving forward but the opposite is the case, we have gone consistently backwards in his two years in charge, from winning the league at a canter and playing in the Champions League to defeat at Hampden by a team who couldn’t even name a full substitutes bench. Even if Celtic had won the shootout, surely the board could not have allowed him another crack at the Champions League qualifiers, downsizing may have happened but we still spend more than the likes of Malmo.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, I still believe there are good players at Celtic, and the recent history of the Old Firm is filled with examples of a new manager having far greater success than his predecessor, Barnes came before O’Neill, Le Guen before Smith, Mowbray before Lennon and McCoist before Warburton.
Doing some basic things like motivating the players, playing them in a formation that suits them and changing the tactics/formation every now and again and I think we will see far better displays on the park, just make sure and win the league, I demand Champions League playoff disappointment as the bare minimum.