Last night, Ronny Deila’s New York team were crowned Eastern Conference champions.
Our former boss might finally get some of the credit he deserves.
One of my biggest regrets about not getting to ten in a row is that it has deprived this exceptionally decent man from taking his deserved bow in front of a rapturous Celtic Park. He has more than earned it.
I know there is a pig-ignorant segment of our support which refuses to acknowledge Ronny Deila’s immense contribution to this football club. I used to be torn about him myself. I thought I understood our hiring him in the beginning until the facts about it emerged, and we discovered that he had been picked as Lennon’s assistant.
When you look at it that way it is a horrendous decision, one of many that this board made.
But as with Ange – another horrendous decision, made in a panic and I have not the least doubt about that – we got not just lucky but incredibly lucky because he turned out to be just what this club needed. Ronny Deila modernised Celtic.
But he did it behind the scenes, in a way that didn’t draw as much attention as the performances on the pitch.
The parallels between him and Ange are obvious, not least in that these are the two men who were entrusted with the job of fixing the mess Lennon made behind of the football operation.
It is amazing to me how much success on the pitch can be used to hide antiquated systems and terrible habits off the field. Ronny inherited a squad that was doing just about everything wrong in terms of modern football thinking that it was possible to do … and he fixed it all.
Those who see Ronny’s time in terms of empty stands and bad performances are not seeing anything like the whole picture. Brendan Rodgers simply built on the tremendous work Deila had begun.
Three members of our squad – Callum McGregor, James Forrest and Kieran Tierney – became stalwarts of the first team. It is no coincidence that our best performers in the years that followed started to show their form under the Norwegian.
He brought a professionalism and new standards to Celtic which were years overdue.
He changed the diet. He changed the training.
He told players that they were to see themselves as athletes and devote themselves to good habits.
He changed lives at Celtic Park.
He departed leaving us a better club than he found, and he left it all there for Rodgers to grow.
Even the players who didn’t buy into Ronny’s style and his ideas, perhaps because they just didn’t want to hear it from a man with no reputation in a major league, were to be shocked when far from ditching all these ideas upon coming to Parkhead Rodgers instead recognised the landscape and that he only had to continue building what Ronny had started.
Had we secured the ten, Lennon would have been the guy many fans would have given most credit for it. Others would have said that it was Rodgers who lifted us to the level where we could get this club over the line.
I think Ronny’s contribution was at least as important as theirs.
He never got that kind of recognition, and in Scotland maybe he never will.
But Ronny Deila has won things now at three different clubs in three different countries.
Even Ange can only point to success in two, although that will soon change and he has international experience on top of that.
That is a successful manager. That is a top coach.
I am sometimes indifferent to the successes of people when they leave Celtic, mostly because I’m quite bitter about those who walk out on us allegedly for something better.
But I have always kept watch on Ronny, and I am delighted for his new success.
He has proven himself all over again.
Although he shouldn’t have to.
Because he has done amazing things in football, and he will do more in the years to come.