Allegedly, Deila is known to the Celtic players as The Professor. But I take it one step further, for he resembles the guy who was immortalised in film by both the aforementioned comedians.
Back in 2009, Deila took eccentricity to new levels by stripping himself down to his unmentionables – in front of the Stromsgodset fans – to celebrate the fact that they had avoided relegation in Norway,
And, during his short term in Glasgow, his Scandinavian approach to things has kicked in: ie: he appears more concerned with changing eating habits than what is going on in the park. In my book, stopping people eating chips, say, doesn’t make you pass the ball better, or score goals more easily.
Actually, I’m not sure he’s totally comfortable as manager. I get the feeling he would be more at ease giving out bad news to players through the media rather than in the dressing room.
What do the players think of him? The nickname (The Professor) is a clue. I don’t think it’s a term of endearment. From what I’ve heard, they don’t find working for him to be enlightening or particularly exhilarating.
In fact, they seem to have quite a few players who stay out for an awful long time with injury, guys who don’t seem to be in a huge hurry to get back and make a contribution to him.
I think it’s a case of them saying to themselves: “We’ll make ourselves available when it suits us.” You can’t help wondering whether Deila’s laid-back style allows this to be accommodated.
Celtic, at the moment, are very much a mixed bag. To say they’ve improved since the start of the season would be well off the mark, in my opinion. Individually, it’s very much hit and miss. They tend to make chances at Celtic Park, but also tend to make very hard work of things.
And, by all accounts, the people who go along to watch find it terribly hard work at times. The team doesn’t score goals in fours and fives and thus encourage the punters to open their songbooks and larynxes. The empty spaces in the ground tells its own story. They’re not exactly rolling up in their thousands thinking that the joys of spring are just round the corner.
So, you can’t turn round and report that major progress has been made. The door at Celtic Park, meanwhile, is no longer of the push and pull variety: it’s a revolving door. We have players coming in who you never see again. They take two or three in, they stay a while and then disappear. There seems to be a constant turn-over of players as they search for that elusive diamond that is going to fetch them a few million pounds – like a Gary Hooper.
Someone asked me recently why Kris Commons is no longer a regular fixture. Well, circumstances dictate that he’s not the first name on the team sheet. When you’re in the last year of your contract and you’re not going to sign another – which Celtic know – the old adage comes up about not committing yourself long-term.
Once you go into that period, it affects how many games you play. The club don’t want to put the player in the shop window – this is about the only piece of power that they have over players nowadays. Consequently, everybody becomes very prickly over it.
But, yeah, maybe supporters and even the Nutty Professor would like to see Commons in the team on a more regular basis, but I imagine when the noises from the people who connect up the dots are saying that it would be better if this was avoided, you listen to those noises. Deila is not so rock solid at Celtic Park that he ignores this type of advice.
From this vantage point, I don’t see him having an authoritative influence on matters. Never having been in his dressing room recently, I might be off the mark, but he doesn’t give me the impression that he has even a smidgeon of Roy Keane in him.
Celtic will always be in a position to win things domestically, but it will be a lot more uncomfortable for them this time because they haven’t made the improvement of say an Aberdeen or a Dundee United.
The second half of the club’s season will have to be a damned sight better than the first half if Deila is to ingratiate himself to first the support and second to the club.
I don’t think he will ever be a legend on the lips of those supporters. Comparisons with his predecessor, Neil Lennon, are difficult. I’d have to say that Lennon’s team were at times erratic, but they certainly entertained better than the present one.
Therefore, after six months, the kind person within me is saying that the words on the half-term report are “could do better,” The cynical realist is arguing they should be: “Must do better” !
PICTURE COURTESY OF: Jeff Holmes Pix