In many ways the life of an elite level manager mirrors that of a doctor; to reach the pinnacle of both vocations there are a set of shared, interchangeable skills. In the same way doctors need to continually study and learn in order to remain at the cutting edge of a profession that is continually evolving, managers must also adapt and improve, after all stratagems and patterns of play that bore fruit last year will not necessarily prove bountiful now.
The most successful manager in Britain, and by the estimations of many, the best in the history of the game; Sir Alex Ferguson, is perhaps the best example. For him to stay at the summit of football, in a game that mutated as often as it did, is remarkable. It is inconceivable to think he could have accomplished this feat were he belligerent enough to get himself set in his ways. This, in my opinion, is the biggest affliction (of many) that current Celtic gaffer Ronny Deila is stained with.
It is no secret that the competency of Deila is being questioned almost as much as George Osbourne’s. You can launch any number of criticisms his way; a lack of charisma, a lack of experience, an over reliance on the insipid “Ronny Roar” or even a poor relationship with some of the club’s high profile players, but for me the biggest fault in his makeup is his comprehension and deployment of tactics.
The best managers have a favoured formation and style of play yet are mature and intelligent enough to tailor their sides to counteract opposition strengths. Deila has never, not once, demonstrated anywhere near the required level of skill. As sure as night follows day, you can guarantee that Deila will opt for the 4-2-3-1 formation regardless of the location or the opposition. I have no problem with this, or any other formation, they all have numerous ticks in the positive and negative aspects columns, but an over reliance on one is foolhardy.
You can look at one of Celtic’s most successful managers, and my personal favourite, Martin O’Neill, the difference, however, was that he could call upon the talents of Balde, Mjallby, Petrov, Lambert as well as Henrik Larsson, a player of such genius it is unlikely we will ever see his likes again in a green and white hooped shirt. O’Neill also had something Deila never will – vast resources. The days of spending a combined £18 million on such terrific players like Sutton, Hartson and Lennon are almost certainly confined to the annuls of history. The chances of Deila wielding such a considerable war chest are slimmer than one of Gary Mackay-Steven’s calves.
Under Ronny Deila’s tenure, Celtic have had the tendency to look like a clichéd bully in an over-dramatized American movie. Happy to pummel the geeks, dweebs and dorks that inhabit their playground, but when faced with an adversary that is in any way bigger or stronger, Celtic have done what all bullies do; soil their pants.
It is unfair to toss all of the club’s woes atop of Deila’s already weary shoulders, many of the issues blighting the club are out with his control. While the club is clearly financially solvent, the finances of the game south of the border have exploded to such a degree that there is no hope of competing. If Aston Villa were to finish bottom of the Barclay’s Premier League this year, as they are expected to do, they would earn from that dismal campaign more than Celtic would if they were to win the Scottish title fifty years in succession. Celtic are a behemoth of a club with the stadium, history and global fan base to rival all but the biggest of clubs in world football, however, all this pales into insignificance if clubs like Crystal Palace, Bournemouth or West Brom can all fork out more than £10 million for a single player. Even in the Championship, sides can easily out muscle Celtic financially as evidenced with Fulham more than happy to dispense £11 million for the acquisition of Ross McCormack. Celtic have gone from a club who could compete with all but the wealthiest of sides to a 4th or even 5th tier side in the European landscape. Until a move to more lucrative climes materialises Celtic have no choice but to conduct themselves in a different manner.
In the same way a weightlifter with less strength than his opponent must rely on other qualities like, technique, practice or increased effort, Celtic must think outside of the box if they are to enjoy successes outside of Scotland. They must be smarter, more pliable and harder working than their more financially endowed opponents. They must innovate their way out of trouble. Something I am far from convinced Ronny Deila and his limited tactical scope can achieve.
The other major disadvantage that Ronny must face is the absence of Rangers. I share the opinion espoused by the American author and satirist Gene Fowler who said “everyone needs a warm personal enemy to keep him free from rust in the movable parts of his mind”. With the club’s biggest adversary coming from the oil-rich city of Aberdeen there is the palpable feeling that the club has been dragged down to a lower standard of play.
There is a tendency to jump at the shadow of Rangers any time the blue side of Glasgow enjoy success – even if that is in the lower leagues, however, Celtic are still a sizeable distance ahead of their bitter rivals, yet this distance will only diminish while Ronny Deila occupies the managerial hot seat.
Celtic enjoy something of a symbiotic relationship with the blue half of Glasgow, in the same way one conjoined twin will begin to show signs of deterioration if the other’s health declines, so to have Celtic suffered without the relentless pressure that runs in parallel with football’s most intense rivalry. The continual arms race to be the top side in Scotland propels Celtic just as much as the need for self-gratification does. Without Rangers to continually push against, Celtic have stagnated, unfortunately quality is not something that can be turned on and off at will, there is no magic switch, lever or valve.
Changing the manager at this stage of the season is simply too turbulent a decision for a side that is still in contention for two domestic titles, yet, when the trees begin to blossom and the temperature rises the Norwegian’s role seriously needs to be considered. Would you trust him with scarcely dispensed millions in another transfer window? Would you allow him to lead the club into another European campaign after so many embarrassing defeats already blighting his CV? The Celtic board need to abandon the “biscuit tin mentality” and get a manager with the required credentials needed to lead a club as beloved as Celtic and provide him with the means to get the club back on the European map. Personally I would look for David Moyes and offer him the opportunity to mend a terrific managerial career that is showing signs of dilapidation.