I was delighted when Ronny Deila became the Celtic manager.
Neil Lennon was – and is – a good man, a man this club will forever be grateful to. He gave more to our club than most would have been able. When you consider what he stood up to, it was, and is, incredible that he endured it and carried on. I was glad when he resigned. I felt he had underachieved in domestic terms, that it had been a mistake to hire someone with so little experience, but I think my emotions were dictated, in part, by the simple fact that I just wanted Neil to go and live a happy life, away from the pressure and the hatred here.
The quest to find his successor took us towards Roy Keane; I was appalled at the very idea of it. Those who said he was a leader had mistaken that for managerial talent. He never had that, and never will. Ronny would have quickly overshadowed him in the number two spot.
Lawwell and the board deserve great credit for turning to him when the Keane thing broke down. I will always be glad that it did; appointing him would have been a colossal mistake that would have cost Celtic years, and millions, to fix.
Ronny impressed me. The idea of going for him appealed on so many levels. It was out-of-the-box thinking. It was a step away from the kind of names that the papers were full of. And although the Scottish hacks sneered at him and made him out to be some kind of joke, playing down what he had done in Norway, his accomplishments there were sterling.
He wanted to change Celtic in every way. He brought innovations from continental football to Celtic Park, and a lot of folk resented it and weren’t happy, but he could have improved them and made them better footballers, more complete. Those players who did take to his ways got better and have been better for it; Tierney, McGregor and Forrest amongst them.
Ronny was horrendously unlucky in his first season; some would say he was robbed, in fact. I would agree. He came so close to being on the cusp of his own treble. The team was playing good football and the garden looked rosy. At that point, I thought we were well on the way to a better team and higher standards than ever before.
A scandalous refereeing decision at Hampden did for him.
I remember watching a video of him giving a motivational speech to young thinkers back in Norway; it was a superb showcase for his man management skills and his philosophy as a manager. I loved it. I enjoyed listening to him put his ideas across. I thought then “we’re definitely on the right road. We’re lucky to have this guy.”
The second season was not so great. What Ronny will tell us tonight is that he took the decision to leave on his own. That he realised his standards were not being met, and that he himself was not doing as good a job as he had hoped. He will tell us he feared that he would cost us five in a row, and did not want to risk ending the run.
This is a good man. This is a humble and decent person, a gentleman in a game of egos and arrogance. And he is a man who loves Celtic now. He could have fought for his job. He may even have kept it. But he realised he had come as far as he could and stepped aside.
Think of the self-awareness that takes. Think of the courage. Think of the sheer integrity in that simple gesture. To me it says we made the right decision appointing him in the first place. He departed with a lot of class. He went out a winner.
Tonight, on BT Sport 1, at 6pm, the story of our seven in a row will be told.
When we make it ten Brendan Rodgers will get the immediate credit, but two men came before him and they started this run. Neil Lennon won us three titles. Ronny Deila won us two. They deserve a place of honour alongside the current manager and when that day comes they will have it.
We are lucky to have had such good, such honest, men.
Our club is a special one.
They personify its finest traditions.
Ronny Deila not only has a place in our history, he has a place in our hearts.