EATING YOUR WORDS – IS RONNY THE REAL DEAL?
SETTING FREE THE BEARS LOOKS AT RONNY’S RECORD AS CELTIC MANAGER AND STARTS BY RECALLING SOME OF THE EARLY SEASON INSULTS DIRECTED AT HIM BY SOME CELTIC SUPPORTERS. RONNY WAS DESCRIBED AS A CHEAP OPTION! HE WAS CALLED A LAWWELL PUPPET! APPARENTLY HE WAS JUST A PE TEACHER WHO CAME FROM A DIDDY LEAGUE!
YESTERDAY BIG JOHN HARTSON WAS MAN ENOUGH TO PUT HIS HANDS UP AND SAY HE GOT IT WRONG ON RONNY AND IS NIW LOOKING FORWARD TO CELTIC WINNING THE TREBLE. SO WITH THE CELTIC MANAGER WINNING OVER EVEN HIS FIERCEST EARLY SEASON CRITICS IT IS TIME TO TAKE STOCK AND LOOK AT RONNY’S STORY SO FAR AS THE CELTIC BOSS…
As someone who was never calling for Ronny’s head and found much of the personal abuse he received objectionable, I want to stand against the revisionist tide of those who are proclaiming, after many months of silence, that they were always in favour of Ronny.
This kind of lighthouse thinking whereby three months ago we were the worst side in Celtic history, and that view was clearly stated on the pages of CQN, but now we are witnessing the second coming of Jock Stein, is not a realistic summary of where we are at.
All it would take is two cup final defeats and a stuttering league run in to have some of our inconstant volatile chameleons going back to calling for Ronny’s head or just shutting up until we hit the next good spell.
A proper evaluation of Ronny’s achievements and of where we are at, must include a proper recognition and memory of the failures and mistakes as well as the good results.
1) He has dismantled the Neil Lennon team fairly quickly and off-loaded some of the guys who did not rise to the pressures of being at CP (Pukki, Balde etc;)
2) He has coped with the loss of Fraser Forster, who ranks with Artur Boruc as our best ever keeper up to this season.
3) He has coped with lengthy injuries for two of our talented players, Lustig & Forrest, and also Derk, who may also be talented.
4) He has always talked well of what he wants to see in football, both on and off the pitch.
5) He has expressed respect for the Scottish game and the Celtic fan base, even as many of them were being hostile to him.
6) He has never whined or complained or adopted a victim mentality.
7) He has stressed a target of domestic success and is on course to deliver
8) He has provided a vision of exciting, energetic football combining the passing attributes of the Barca and Arsenal styles with the high energy pressing football innovated by less galactico outfits such as Dortmund, Red Bull Salzburg, and Basel.
9) He has never complained about not having money to spend as he knows his strength as a development coach.
10) He has gradually, eventually and recently reached a level of consistent performance from this group of players, just as Neil and Gordon used to have to face down early season criticism before our squad strength and improving post-Winter pitches led us on to better results.
What Ronny has struggled with:
1) Having to learn about players new to him. He has had to do this without being able to reach for a transfer buy, the most common proposed solution for any form of managerial deficit.
2) Trying to work out which players have the capacity, willingness and intelligence to work the way he wants the team to work.
3) Having to deal with the brutal exposure of the fact he was not first choice as manager and had landed the job ahead of schedule. This was not a failing of Ronny’s, merely one more adversarial circumstance he had to overcome as it persuaded many to turn against him and believe he was in the top job on the Peter Principle (No, not that Peter!)
4) Adjusting to a new culture where he was the only Norwegian in the management structure. Everyone else were people he had not worked with before. Little wonder he relied on Stefan Johansen and asked for the un-needed Berget as well.
5) Crucially he was exposed with a dismantlied team facing early European qualifiers. Anyone who never felt a doubt about Ronny could not have been at the Murrayfield game where we saw, and I am not prone to hyperbole, the worst Euro performance from Celtic in over 20 years.
6) The unfortunate late goal lost to Maribor, a game which could have gone either way, which again saw a lot of support drift away from him.
7) Having to face a mini player revolt, when in the midst of his poor run, some senior players and some of the “dropped” non-athletes decided they might get the Boss removed as they openly mocked his methods.
8) Having to face the first game against the new Ibrox club, where some of our Old Firm minded made this, bizarrely, a must win game. The tide was turning when Ronny enjoyed a rare twist of luck when the hapless Sevco mob managed to perform below even their own poor standards in this match, despite refereeing help.
9) Being backed in the transfer window, not just with the money to get Gary Mackay Steven early or paying over the market rate for another Dundee United player who turned out to be a steal, but, more importantly, not having Virgil Van Dijk sold from under him when his value remained “hot”.
10) Getting to half time against Aberdeen not just level but ahead on the score sheet. Our play did not deserve this but we rode our luck until our true form re-emerged.
1) We need to complete this season successfully. The league is now a near certainty (I always believed it was for this year at least). Winning one of the Cups would be very nice but, for many, the Treble is a fetishised aim and anything less, will be viewed as failure. Remember Trebles are a rare occurrence for a reason; they are hard to achieve.
2) We need to re-build in the summer when we seem sure to lose our young and talented centre back partnership and may also face bids for our two new midfield stars, Bitton and Johansen. That is a lot to rebuild, especially when we only have one reliable left back and a very good goalie with a dodgy medical record.
3) The Euro qualifiers will come just as early next year and, despite the siren calls to get all our business done early, we cannot overcome our circumstances and will need to see who is definitely going before we prioritise our buys. We will then need to wait and see if our selected picks are willling to come and whether their clubs will sell them at a price we are willing to play. I don’t expect it to be different any time soon.
4) The innovations produced by Dortmund, Salzburg etc; are being studied and countered all the time. Dortmund had a rough time of it this year though their style was not radically different. Ronny may have to tinker and evolve further to make the system better.
5) The continuing openness at the back needs to be addressed. We ask a lot of Virgil and Jason with the full backs bombing on and with Brown, Bitton and Johansen providing cover as best they can but none of them are classic defensive midfielders who can act like a third centre half in the way Victor Wanyama did. It is great that we have two very good centre backs because this system needs two great centre backs. We could do with being less exposed.
6) We need to cope with the growing disparity between big league wages in England and our ability to keep our better players. It is good that Forster and Wanyama have been successes that have justified big transfer fees. That means that, if we lose our best, we get better money for them, but go they will, regardless of transfer fee, because the wages and the prestige are much greater than we can currently provide. Ronny Deila cannot change this fact of life but he is a good development coach to have on board while we are having to deal with it.
7) Keeping Ronny at Celtic Park. If Ronny can get Celtic to replicate their Inter Milan level of performance, it will be hard to keep this competent and ambitious man here if a bigger club or league comes calling. That would be the ultimate irony if he followed in Fraser Forster’s path from being ridiculed to being highly coveted.
8) Merely being as good as last year might disappoint. Expectations have been raised. The view is that now Ronny has got the mistakes out of his system, things can only get better. But progress is rarely linear.
9) The management team breaking up or coming under pressure. The managerial team of Deila, Collins, Kennedy, Park, Lawwell and McGuiness was a thrown together team. They had to adapt to each other without having built up a partnership (apart from Lawwell and Park) over time. There may be tensions there we are unaware of. Maybe a successful coach may want more of a say in hiring and firing his backroom staff. And then there is the continued presence of Roy Keane at Celtic Park- Hmmmm!
10) Celtic fans being volatile and judgemental again. Well we did it to both Gordon Strachan and Neil Lennon, even when they had a track record of success. We might end up being just as demanding, unreasonable and football fannish as we have been with other successful managers. The Ronny Roar might become the Ronny Bore.
One things for sure, if I can shoehorn in a wee CQN in-joke, we will have to keep our WITS about us…
Written by Setting Free the Bears (SFTB) for CQN Magazine.
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