THE turbulent, storm-tossed journey that is Ronny Deila’s Celtic career is entering a location that will be labelled dire straits or safe harbour, according to results.
Deila, heavily buffeted in the summer by failure to qualify for the Champions League, ended the year with a home defeat to Motherwell. This, yet again, increased speculation about his future at the champions. The winds of January, though, have been benign, sweeping Celtic to five wins on an aggregate 19-3 scoreline.
There is, of course, one fixture still to be played in the month and it illustrates the dangerous waters that still surround Deila. Celtic must this weekend beat Ross County to advance to the final of the league cup. The absence of the group stages of the Champions League and the exit from the Europa League before Christmas have formed a narrative that suggests that Deila’s only hope of survival is to win a domestic treble.
Yet the message from the boardroom at Celtic Park is that Deila is in place for the long term. The talk is of “developing” a squad, bringing through players. The message is that the culture of play has to change amid the reality that transfer budgets will be much tighter than in recent years. The strategy has been considered as bold but, in truth, it nods in recognition of the truths facing Scottish football.
Celtic need to find a way to prosper on the pitch but cannot use the only certain route for success: financial power. This is why the Deila years are not only a test of the Norwegian but of the resilience of the board and the patience of the support. It has led to an intriguing difference in opinion among fans. The invective from a section of fans has been so vitriolic one could be forgiven for believing Deila’s first name was Dud. But others are more forgiving of the manager, urging more time and being appreciative of the difficulties of European competition.
There are two questions facing the Celtic support. The first is whether Deila can win a treble. The second is whether that will save him from a departure from Glasgow in the summer. The next two matches will go some way to answering the first as Ross County in the league cup is followed by Aberdeen in the league.
The second can only be answered by those in the Celtic boardoom but a safe harbour is still some way off for Deila.
BY HUGH MACDONALD