I can’t argue with John Hughes winning the Manager of the Year award. Without glossing over the obvious semi-final issue, he’s taken Inverness to stick-on favourites for the Scottish Cup and, for a while, stuck with Aberdeen in the Best of the Rest fight. The second half of the season have seen fortunes fade, but this reflects the resource paucity he has, compared to Dundee United or Aberdeen.
What’s just as clear is that Ronny Deila would have been a contender for the award. Appointing a manager is always a risk. Gordon Strachan was as safe a pair of hands as you could hope for in 2005, but it took nerves of steel for him to cope with some early reversals. Tony Mowbray was also a known quantity, who should have done better, but rookie Neil Lennon pitted against experienced Walter Smith was highly risky. Neil could have sunk without a trace, instead of winning all those trophies.
At least Neil knew the club and the club knew Neil. Appointing a guy from one of the smallest professional clubs in Europe, totally unknown in the Scottish game until Celtic scouted Stefan Johansen, was an almighty risk.
What we recruited was a philosophy. Celtic knew how a football team should be prepared, how to recruit, what tactical intelligence was required in a manager, and they travelled to Strømsgodset to find their man.
Had he qualified for the Champions League group stage, I reckon Ronny would have won Manager of the Year, but as this is the standard Celtic managers are judged by, he missed out. There are no guarantees in football, so qualifying next season cannot be taken for granted, but he should be better prepared. As should the players. This is the target, Ronny.
Who is the Celtic assistant manager?
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Many thanks to Magners (who get what we’re about).