Following the surprise departure of Neil Lennon last month, Celtic made yet another surprise announcement last week with the appointment of Ronny Deila as their new manager. The 38 year old joins from Stromsgodset in the Norwegian Tippeligaen title for the first time in 43 years. The Norwegian signed a 12 month rolling contract last Thursday and took over with immediate effect. He is expected to be joined at Celtic by former player John Collins as his assistant manager. It’s a stunning turnaround from the club who up until the start of last week looked set to announce Roy Keane as their new boss, but after failed negotiations with their former player, Celtic turned their attentions to Norway. The choice of Deila as their new manager may have come as a shock to many Celtic fans who are now wondering who their new boss is. So who exactly is Ronny Deila?
Deila is a former player who after a fairly unspectacular spell on the pitch made the transition to coaching in 2006 when he was appointed as player/assistant coach at Strømsgodse working under head coach Dag-Eilev Fagermo. He had already had a taste of coaching in the lower levels with a brief spell at fourth tiered team, Brodd but the move to become assistant coach at Strømsgodse would be the making of him. In his first season in his new role, Fagermo and Deila masterminded Strømsgodse’s promotion back to the Tippeligaen before helping then to a tenth place finish the campaign after. When Fagermo was poached by Odd Grenland at the end of the 2007 season, Deila was appointed as manager which in turn ended his playing career. Over the next six seasons, Deila would transform Strømsgodse from relegation candidates to league champions. He did so in remarkable fashion with Strømsgodse playing an attractive attacking pressing game which drew comparisons in terms of his managerial style to that of Borussia Dortmund’s boss Jurgen Klopp. To be compared to Klopp suggests that Deila is an emerging club manager much like his German counterpart so the move to Celtic could be the springboard he needs to elevate his growing profile further. Signing on only for one year also suggests that both parties are keen to protect against the future with Celtic not wanting to be held to Deila if he is unsuccessful whilst Deila wants to keep his options open if he is successful at Celtic.
It’s a smart approach and one that Celtic has used before, appointing relatively unknowns in the past with spectacular effect. They brought in Dutchman Wim Jansen in 1997 who guided Celtic to their first domestic league title in ten years, ending rivals Rangers nine in a row run. Despite only being in Glasgow for one season, Jansen is fondly remembered for delivering the title as well as bringing legend Henrik Larsson to the club. After his departure, Celtic turned to Dr. Joseph Venglos who despite not being able to win anything in the season he was in charge, did set up Celtic for future success with a host of signings including Mark Viduka, Johan Mjallby and Lubomir Moravčík.
Whilst he may not come with the reputation of Roy Keane or the managerial experience of other candidates like Steve Clarke, Malky MacKay and Owen Coyle, Deila may be exact what Celtic need for this coming season. With Rangers still lingering in the lower divisions and now both Edinburgh clubs, Hearts and Hibernian joining them there after relegation, competition for the Scottish Premier League title will be restricted to Dundee United, Aberdeen and Motherwell. The Celtic board will be confident of achieving another league title regardless of the manager so appointing Deila appears low risk. It will also give their new manager much needed experimental time to tinker with formations and new strategies before the real test begins next season. He will also get exposure to Champions League football, something that Deila only had limited time to enjoy with Strømsgodse. He will be handed funds to redevelop the team but significantly less than in previous years. This was a key gripe of Neil Lennon’s before he left but Deila will have no issue with this given the limited resources he had to work with in Norway.
The appointment of Ronny Deila may have been a surprise but to clever observers it’s the right appointment for Celtic as they plan for the future. Success has many different criteria’s and Deila will be measured on several although they may be slightly geared more towards future success than current ones like building a team that can compete on all fronts for the foreseeable future.