With the dust now settled on last weeks on field outburst by Kris Commons, Celtic manager Ronny Deila was keen to move on and focus the media attention away from the club. That was until training yesterday when Turkish striker Nadir Ciftci took exception to a Emilo Izaguirre challenge, violently kicking out his teammate resulting in the Honduran having to leave the training session to receive stitches to a deep cut near his left ear. Deila, who wasn’t present at the time has been quick to underplay the incident stating that in football these things happen and that he wants the players to be training with intensity. Both players have been spoken to and a line drawn underneath the clash but its a worrying sign for Deila especially this early in the new season.
Deila has already had to speak to one other player this week, Kris Commons after his outburst and rant during the 3-1 defeat to Molde in the Europa League last Thursday. The former Scotland international was less than pleased when his number appeared on the substitutes board after only 76 minutes in the Aker Stadion. Commons vented his frustration publically first on the pitch and then later on the bench, arguing with Celtic’s assistant manager John Collins and first team coach John Kennedy. To be fair to Commons, he was by far Celtic’s best player on the pitch and their most likely outlet back into the match having scored a superb goal earlier in the game. When he was substituted for Ciftci, the travelling Celtic fans showed their disapproval too booing the decision loudly as Commons marched off. After the game, Commons was quick to apologize, probably in an effort to avoid a hefty fine and potential other ramifications of his actions but in truth the player will still be annoyed with what happened.
The two incidents only a week apart may be an early sign of problems within the Celtic camp. It could be an indication of trouble brewing between the players and the coaching staff as there are very few times that there is smoke without fire. The Commons incident in particular raised concerns for various journalists and former players who highlighted that players like Commons, who has a lot of experience at this level know to question the manager’s decision and more importantly how to argue with it. Common’s willingness to vent so publicly suggests that he isn’t afraid of the manager nor respects his decisions which could be a major concern for Celtics board. Commons is one player but he is also an influential member of the squad who carries a lot of weight with his teammates. His unhappiness could spread quickly and infect the whole team if it hasn’t already.
Tuesday’s clash between the players may have been understated by Deila but again highlight a problem at Celtic. If the players are split due to clashes in character or for any other reason, then Celtic’s season could derail at any moment. It’s the manager’s job to unify the team and make them all pull for the same cause but again if that trust is gone, then Deila’s words will fall on deaf ears. Deila’s signings and apparent favouritism towards certain players appears to be a major factor in this split. Against Molde, Norwegian Stefan Johansen had a nightmare but remained on the pitch for the entire game with Commons instead the man to be pulled. Added into this, the signing of Turkish striker Nadir Ciftci from Dundee United appears to be a major factor. The 23 year old may have impressed many at his former club but at Celtic to date he has been a huge disappointment. Regularly used as a substitute, Ciftci has received a lot of criticism from the press for his lack of awareness on the pitch with many often commenting that he tends to run around like a headless chicken. Off the field, Ciftci is reportedly problematic as well with his temper and short fuse often causing problems int he squad. The training ground bust up with Izaguirre is the most public of these but Deila has yet to act appropriately and curb the poor behaviour of the troublesome Turk.
Its not all doom and gloom for the current Scottish Champions though. They sit top of the Scottish Premiership once again (although Aberdeen’s recent slide in form may have aided this) and still have a chance of qualifying from the Europa League. The host Molde and Ajax at home next before a difficult trip to Turkey to face Fenerbache as the group concludes in early December. However by then Deila has to figure out how to get this team back on side and believing in him once more. He has to put out the fire that is starting to burn brighter by the day because if he can’t it may be his job going up in smoke next.