Friday, 20 January 2017

The Downfall Of Celtic's Most Successful Failure - Part 2

For Part 1 Click HERE

The 2015/16 season was shaping up to be a good one for Celtic. Ronny Deila was now well on his way to understanding the demands of being the boss at Scotland's biggest club and several players had been brought through the door to bolster the squad for the challenges ahead. Of the new acquisitions Dedryck Boyata was the name most fans were expecting big things from. The 25 year old Belgian had been signed from Manchester City for a cool 1.5m, sending expectation levels through the roof in the hope he could match the form shown by his countryman Jason Denayer the previous season. Nadir Ciftci on the other hand was more of a headscrather for the Parkhead faithful who were wondering quite why the boss was shelling out 1.5m on a Dundee Utd striker who hadn't shown the form nor ability required to make the grade. Even more bizarrely Nadir was signed with the intention of handing him the responsibility of being the main man. It seems more incredible now than it did back then but Ronny was actually hellbent on replacing Leigh Griffiths with the Turk. Of course everything is rosy with the benefit of hindsight but on this occasion it didn't take the fans, nor Ronny long to realise the idea was absolutely absurd. 

Perhaps the news that made the biggest wave in Scottish Football that season was the long running saga of Scott Allan. The young Hibs man was said to be a die hard Rangers fan so it was a complete surprise to see him sign for Celtic on the 15th August. Rangers fans were devastated, having firmly believed the lad would be transported "Senderos style" in a van to sign for their club. Did Ronny troll Rangers by signing their top target? Unlikely given what we know of his personality. Indeed it seems more than likely the man doing the trolling was none other than Peter Lawell, who had shown his cheeky side on more than one occasion. Scott very rarely featured after his transfer and yet again it planted a seed of doubt that the manager may not be the one signing the players.

High Hopes for Boyata

After last season's Champions League disappointment everyone was determined to make amends, starting with the first qualifying round where the Hoops would face Icelandic side Stjarnan. Nobody expected anything less than a Celtic win and they duly delivered with a 6-1 aggregate battering. An easy start for Ronny's side. Unfortunately the Third Qualifying Round wouldn't be quite so simple against Azerbaijan side Quarabag FK. The Azerbijani's had invested quite heavily in their squad with the aim of qualification and anyone who knew anything about football anticipated two tough ties for Celtic. Thanks to a Dedryck Boyata header, the Hoops took the spoils at Celtic Park and headed to Azerbaijan clinging onto their slender 1-0 lead. Celtic's away performance that night would be remembered as one of Ronny's highlights. The Hoops played in an extremely hostile atmosphere, fought for every ball and held out for a 0-0 draw. It was a great result, showing the sort of backbone that was all too scarce in Ronny's time. Hopes were high that Celtic could negotiate the playoff round and reach the lucrative Champions League group stage. Hopes that were soon to be dashed as the wheels came off the season in the most heartbreaking of ways.

When Celtic were drawn against Swedish cracks Malmo, it seemed the Champions League was within their grasp. Not only were the Swedes not the best side in the pot, they were also carrying a certain player by the name Jo Inge Berget. The first leg would be played at Celtic Park which ended in a 3-2 victory for the home side. Not a good result. Celtic had conceded two silly goals from set pieces, one of them in the 95th minute. Guess who scored the goal? Yes the man who had toiled at Parkhead bagged a brace as Celtic teetered on the brink of a Champions League exit. The soft underbelly running through the Celtic team meant fans were skeptical they could go to Sweden and get a result. They were right! Malmo ran out 2-0 winners after a perfectly good Nir Bitton goal was disallowed. Celtic were out and the first nail in Ronny's managerial coffin was hammered in. After the game things would never be the same again for the Norwegian. Until that point there were many willing to give him a second season to see if things improved. Now the fanbase was split down the middle and there were murmurs that Ronny wouldn't last the week. Arguably the decision not to axe him created an even bigger mess in the months ahead.

Jo Inge Berget

Domestically Celtic would dominate again, but this time they would make extremely hard work of the title and leave fans panicking that they might just throw the league away. As the season progressed there were several high profile incidents involving players and none was worse than the Kris Commons incident During the doomed Europa League campaign Celtic would not win a single match and frustration got the better of Commons during a match against Molde in Norway. While coming off as a substitute the Celtic talisman launched a blistering attack towards the sidelines. Did he aim it at Ronny? No one know's but speculation at the time seemed to indicate the rant had been directed at Celtic's assistant manager. Who Commons was speaking to that night has never been cleared up. It did however bring sharply into focus the role that Collins was playing at the club. JC was known as a very divisive figure in his time as boss at Hibs and most just didn't like him. Rumours swirled that he was absolutely despised at Celtic and may even have been undermining the boss. If Collins was causing problems behind the scenes then why exactly was he still there? Celtic's capitulation in the Europa League caused the fans to react badly and for the first time there were open calls to put the manager out of his misery. Unfortunately things would get far worse as far as the chase for domestic trophies went.

Celtic's chances of a treble during Ronny's two seasons had been talked up quite considerably by the media and parroted by certain fans. What those fans failed to realise was that the whole idea of the coveted treble was being used as a stick to beat the club with. Put simply if Celtic won it they were only doing what they should be doing. If they lost then it gave the hacks their excuse to put another negative slant on the Parkhead club. Winning a domestic treble is an exceptionally hard achievement and as feared Ronny or his players just weren't up to it. The mentality wasn't there and it was confirmed when the club crashed out of the league cup in the semi-final to Ross County. Even on league duty there were fears that Celtic would blow the title. Some fans blamed Ronny, others were turning their attention towards the board. Celtic were fractured and broken. A clear rift between those in the stands and those in the boardroom was forming.

Celtic Fans were Unhappy

It was against this backdrop that Celtic met sevco Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final. Some fans clung to the hope that the Bhoys would come good. They didn't! A combination of bad defending, poor refereeing and clueless tactics saw Celtic go out on penalties. At that point sevco were in the league below and the fallout from the game was massive as Celtic fans demanded Ronny go and take Peter Lawell with him. Shortly after the game they got half their wish. Ronny would leave at the end of the season.

So what went wrong? Well it all depends on who you ask. Celtic directors probably believed they were doing the right thing when they appointed him. Had Ronny been a bit more clued up he may have turned the corner. Unfortunately it seems there were too many having words in his ear about how to play and who to sign. Ronny just wasn't a strong enough character to deal with it. Imagine if someone tried that with Brendan Rodgers right now? Imagine a player giving him abuse in the dugout while coming off as a sub? Never again would the player in question play for the club. Ronny played Kris Commons in the next game. Even at the start of his reign the Norwegian had showed that he may lack the belief in his own ability. Remember Commons was deemed surplus to requirements before being recalled after fan pressure. Ditto Leigh Griffiths who soon found himself back in the starting line up while Ciftci twiddled his thumbs. Of course there may be the John Collins factor to consider. Did the players like Collins? We may never know but it is telling that none have came out in his defence since the day he exited Celtic Park. Perhaps some players struggled to adapt to the new gaffer after being so loyal to Neil Lennon. We may never know the full story. For his part Ronny has come out and admitted he struggled to handle life at a club the size of Celtic. Fair play to him.

Things would change for Celtic

Despite the sour way it all ended for Ronny he has in fact left a legacy. Erik Sviachenko and Stuart Armstrong were signed on his watch and both feature heavily in the current side. Even Patrick Roberts was loaned in by Ronny and Kieran Tierney was given his first taste of action. We will never know who signed all the players during his time but we can at least give the man some credit on landing a league cup trophy and two titles. Ever heard of a manager who was so successful being called a failure? Ronny Delia is the answer.  If Celtic do ten in a row the history books will still state that he won two of them. Now the dust has settled we should all be thankful to a man who gave his all while the pressure was slowly killing him. Thanks Ronny and good luck for the future.

Go To Part 1

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