Things go wrong in football. This is well understood. Managers are appointed who don’t make it and changes have to be made. Some clubs treat those managers in an appalling fashion – Leicester City is but one case in point – whilst others are ruthless in the dispatch but more finessed in the means of execution. I have seen examples of both.
What Celtic did with Ronny Deila stands head and shoulders above them all.
Before I start, a confession; I disagreed with their decision to give Ronny Deila the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign. I thought it was a risk because once you tell a guy he’s done he loses authority in the dressing room and might even be inclined to down tools. We still had a league title to wrap up and although it looked secure the doubts, which had erupted full-blown after we lost at Hampden, looked more substantial than ever.
And yet even then I saw a kind of beauty in what we were doing. It was classy. It paid tribute to the man’s efforts on behalf of our club.
It was also an acknowledgement of something I had long suspected; that inside our club there is the same contempt for the media that we all feel here.
Ronny Deila had been battered constantly by the hacks, from the moment he took over the club.
His every act was scrutinised. Before he had even taken a game Hugh Keevins had commented on his touchline push-ups to say no-one who conducted himself like that was fit to be Celtic boss. The contempt shown towards his triumphs in Norway was disgusting.
What happened after Hampden was that certain people in Celtic Park decided the club had to go down another path, but also that we would not throw a good man to the wolves. They pulled Ronny close and told him, “you will leave with honour, with dignity, as a winner.”
In a sport where the necessity for brutality is sometimes very clear, it was a reminder that not all exits have to be brutal. There is a way to do things which honours the dedication and commitment a football manager gives to his club.
This is a subject Brendan turns to again and again. I am going to write in more detail about this later on, but his comments on Murty are not unique to the former Sevco manager’s situation. The man feels it whenever a fellow boss loses his job, perhaps because he’s been there and perhaps because Brendan, himself, is a decent man who considers other people.
There’s a tendency within the sport now towards rash decisions. Managers and even some players are written off way too quickly by fans and by pundits alike. Directors fire people with almost carefree abandon, but never seem to take personal responsibility. Over at Sevco King has just sacked his fourth manager in three years, yet nowhere at Ibrox will you find a trace of acknowledgement that maybe the problems aren’t in the dugout.
This is not confined to them, but they offer British football’s more blatant example of how unreality has washed over certain clubs in recent years. Even at Manchester United, for a long time the most stable club on this island, there’ve been collective rushes to judgement.
Mourinho is their third boss since Ferguson; he may not survive the next campaign.
At Arsenal, a combination of fan anger and boardroom panic has resulted in Arsene Wegner announcing his departure in advance to avoid what he calls “the poisoning of the club’s soul.”
The game does terrible things to managers now. It chews them up so completely you wonder if some of them will ever find a way back.
I wrote on this very blog, when McCoist was sacked, that he would never take charge of a top flight match again, anywhere in the game.
In fact, no club of any standing whatsoever has offered him a job.
When Warburton rolled up at Ibrox he was seen as a guy on the up and up, although cartoon characters like Adrian Durham did him no favours touting him as a “future England manager.” His sacking at Sevco was inevitable, and were it not for the way he was perceived in the aftermath perhaps Notts Forest would have stuck him with longer. His career is as good as over now. You cannot imagine it recovering.
Ronny himself went home and took over Valerenga.
His debut season there was poor; they were eighth in the league. They currently sit at seventh, albeit the season has just begun. They are eight points from the top spot, but there is plenty of time to get it right. He signed a four-year deal, and the signs are good that they’ll keep the faith with him.
I hope they do. I still expect him to have a great career.
Celtic could have ruined it. Had we fired him and dismissed him as not up to the job, that might have been it. But in dealing with it with the class we did, and in the manner we chose, we put our seal of approval on the man and provided him with the only reference he’ll ever need.
Ronny left a winner. He remains one.