Light at the end of the tunnel

These past two months have been a hard slog for Ronny Deila. At the same time, its been tough for Celtic supporters to watch.

In August I decided that I wasn’t going to get worked up about Celtic’s early season form and I said as much in my Celtic circle. With the team being developed I wasn’t going to get too upset too soon so would just let Ronny Deila get on with it.

As October approaches I look back on the campaign so far and what Deila has had to endure. A new manager at a big club, new players, some uncertain futures to contend with, late arrivals and the weight of expectation firmly on his shoulders.

The Champions League, now forgotten for another season. The Europa League, our fall back (and probably better suited for now) competition now under way.

Throughout this early stage of the season, Deila has had injuries to contend with. On top of that, he hadn’t played a single match at Celtic Park until Celtic’s thirteenth fixture (friendly and competitive) which was a home tie against Dundee United, a 6-1 slaughtering of Jackie McNamara’s current league leaders.

Following those opening two league victories, the first being a 3-0 away win over St Johnstone, Celtic hit the skids. After the Legia Warsaw reprieve, a major distraction, Celtic received a further blow at the hands of Maribor and failed to reach the Champions League group stage.

League form suffered, with one defeat away to Inverness and a draw at Dundee. After the international break Celtic bounced back with a 2-1 win over Aberdeen at Celtic Park.

Then came the Europa League and with it, an away draw. Something I would have settled for before kick off.

Then Motherwell visited that weekend and earned a draw. It wasn’t pleasing for the home crowd as the boos rang around Celtic Park.

With fans questioning Deila’s rotation of players, frustration was beginning to emit from sections of the support. The game against Hearts was important for Deila’s treble chances and this game had been mooted as a make or break tie.

It was a convincing performance by Celtic and one that Ronny Deila must now build upon. Saturday’s early kick off against St Mirren is another vital one for Celtic for consistency purposes if nothing else .

As the season has progressed there appears to be less disruption for Deila. The transfer window has been closed several weeks, new players are bedding in, European fixtures confirmed etc etc.

What we need to be mindful of as ‘supporters’ is that Ronny Deila is trying to develop a team as he sees it. He’s had to do that with no end of disruption along with an expectation of instant success.

It’s not to say that Ronny, his coaches and the squad are out of the woods just yet. There is however, a calmness and focus now that Deila can see which players he has and what they are capable of.

Now all he needs is our support. He’s says he has done tinkering with the team and that’s fine, I had no problem with him doing that at this point in the campaign.

A lunch time victory on today would go down nicely along with the last two results. It would also give Deila a positive boost ahead of next Thursday’s Europa League match against Dinamo Zagreb at Celtic Park.

Lets take the fight to Paisley.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

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You reap what you Sow

Celtic progressed into the quarter finals of the League Cup with a comfortable win over Heart of Midlothian. This was a victory that Ronny Deila needed as he strives for consistency.

Hearts were up for it from the word go and made the early moves in the game. To their credit, they have shown how a club can fall into a financial mess and recover by repaying their debts and re-establishing themselves on a steady footing.

They gave a good account last night considering the changes they have undergone. However, as the game wore on, Celtic grew in stature.

Its been a period of change for Celtic and Ronny Deila has been tinkering with the team for weeks. I’ve no real issue with that but last night he put out a strong side and got a result.

Although Hearts hit the bar and Osman Sow missed a penalty, Celtic were the dominant force. You can argue that the first chance was a defensive error and the penalty was contentious but Celtic were the dominant force.

It was a another quiet night for rising start Callum McGregor. He’s been Deila’s best performer to date but the lad needs a rest and it shows.

The left wing was where Celtic were getting all the joy. Emilio Izaguirre, forgiven for a horrendous back pass in the match, played a blinder on the left channel.

Together with Stokes in a wide berth they played some neat passing to trouble the Hearts defence throughout the entire match. This is a role more suited to Stokes who to be honest, is never a striker.

That role was left to John Guidetti who quite simply, put the ball in the netty! Sorry about that one, but let’s hope there are loads more goals from him.

Commons tucked away another from the penalty spot to add to his season tally. The final goal came courtesy of a chest propelled back pass from Hearts defender Adam Eckersley.

He did remarkably well to do what he did. I don’t think Neil Alexander was ready for such a close and pacey pass back though!

All in all this was another bit of progress for Ronny Deila. He’s had his critics lately so the timing and importance of this result were important.

The next step is to get into a winning run in the league. There isn’t a huge gap and it is still early in the season but with Europe going on in tandem with domestic duties now is the time to start gathering momentum.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Heart Attack!

Tonight’s match at Celtic Park has been billed as a must win game for Ronny Deila. The only difficulty going into this fixture is that Celtic have yet to achieve the long-term consistency we all crave.

As for the opponents, Hearts, they are sitting top of the Championship three points ahead of Rangers. Celtic sit fourth in the Premiership, five points behind leaders Dundee United.

Now as you well know, form rarely matters in the cup competitions. Nonetheless, this is a big fixture for Celtic and Deila.

He is losing support from areas of the fan base already. A loss tonight would be an immediate blow to any chance of a domestic treble.

The pressure on Deila right now is immense. A convincing win tonight would go a long way to releasing some of that.

Hearts will feel they have nothing to lose playing a Premiership team. At the same time they will be thinking “we couldn’t have got Celtic at a better time.”

With that in mind, Ronny Deila must respond by putting out a strong side. Then it is up to the players to do the business.

An early goal would be ideal for Celtic just to get settled. Then to press for the second before Hearts get a chance to make any real attack.

There has been some decent play at times by Celtic, but not enough and in particular, in the final third. Possession isn’t an issue for a squad like this but they have to make that possession count.

With any luck Šćepović and Guidetti will light things up for the forward line. Tonight would be a good starting point.

Go for the jugular Celtic.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Born of frustration

On Sunday, Celtic could only manage a draw at home to Motherwell. Kris Commons drew the Bhoy’s level from the penalty spot but this was a game that could have gone either way.

The result came off the back of a credible draw away in Europe a few days earlier. At home most would have expected a win but there were several changes made by Ronny Deila.

Whilst these kind of European hangovers were not uncommon during the Martin O’Neill era, some Celtic fans already feel enough is enough. Staggeringly, Ronny Deila has already been compared to Tony Mowbray, a touch melodramatic for this stage in the season.

Some have even talked about previous managers (Liam Brady) leaving at this stage of this season. Well, they had at least one full season before the one they got sacked in.

Yes its true, Deila has yet to see his Celtic side fully click and convince. Is it really time to start hitting the panic button though?

Celtic have played seven European and six domestic games. They are four points off the top of the league with one game at hand.

In order for Deila to see his vision on the field of play and allow late additions to the squad bed in, I’m prepared to be a bit more patient. If you are one of those Celtic fans who have seen enough already then fine, you are entitled to your opinion, particularly if you are a paying customer.

When Mowbray came in I gave him a chance to prove me wrong, but I was clear from the moment he was appointed that he was not the man for the job. I was right about that in the end sadly, but even he got until March of that season before getting the chop.

Deila continues to make changes and rotate players which I feel he is entitled to right now. Whilst this has contributed to inconsistency, I’d rather he did it now than later on in the season.

He’s getting to know his squad and trying different combinations to see what does and doesn’t work. I have my own concerns about choices Deila makes as well (Ambrose at right back) but with regards to the bigger picture I’ll wait and see what the manager produces in the coming weeks.

Scott Brown has just returned which is a huge boost. Though Deila is still without Mikael Lustig, Adam Matthews and James Forrest who as we know are all important players for the club.

What we are seeing now is frustrating, but personally I don’t think Celtic are a long way off settling down. I could be totally wrong but its only September, we’re involved in four competitions and its a new era so let’s give it a wee bit longer eh?

As many have pointed out, the League Cup match against Heart’s is crucial. They may be a Championship side currently but Ronny Deila should be aiming for a domestic treble starting with a victory tomorrow night.

Trophies will earn him respect and plaudits. As long as he remains in the race to obtain them, he deserves some backing.

Give him time.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

A good start

Ronny Deila’s players kicked off their Europa League campaign with a positive result. Despite leading twice, Celtic had to settle for a draw but it was a fair result.

Celtic started the stronger and looked good for the first goal. That came true after some nice one touch passing in the final third of the field involving captain Scott Brown, Kris Commons and finally debutant Wakaso Mubarak, curling a low drive into the far corner.

Salzburg would respond some twenty-two minutes later courtesy of a deflection. That goal came during a period when Celtic were sitting back and were duly punished, albeit cruelly.

Celtic took the lead once more in the second half through Scott Brown after he latched onto a loose ball outside the box. With space and time to breathe, Brown smacked the ball home calmly, though took a touch of a Salzburg players boot en route to goal.

Later in the second half, Celtic made attacking changes. It was inevitable given that some players, young Callum McGregor in particular, were surprisingly quiet and ineffective, though he himself would remain on the park throughout the game.

Anthony Stokes and Aleksandr Tonev replaced Stefan Šćepović and Kris Commons respectively. Whilst Commons can always conjure something out of nothing, Šćepović has yet to settle into the team though he did come extremely close to scoring a long-range effort shortly before going off.

However, Salzburg came back into the match with twelve minutes remaining. A free kick conceded by Celtic was sublimely placed into the goal by Salzburg striker Soriano.

Chances came and went toward the end of the game but it finished a stalemate. The main talking points were positive in my view, though I still question Efe Ambrose’s placement at right back.

With injuries to Lustig and Matthews, Ambrose’s experience has won over Ronny Deila. For me though, it is Darnell Fisher who should filling that position for now given Ambrose’s lackadaisical performances.

On a positive note Scott Brown’s return to the midfield was warmly welcomed in European competition. His influence and determination is important amongst these other midfield players who do not possess ability but perhaps not that same aggression and spirit.

For Callum McGregor it was not such a fortuitous night but Ronny Delia has a great deal of belief in him. I wouldn’t disagree with him either as McGregor is easily one of Celtic’s best players right now.

I save my main praise for goalkeeper Craig Gordon though. Celtic’s decision to bring him to the club (not Ronny’s) left me with mixed feelings, particularly as it meant a certain exit for “La Gran Muralla”, Fraser Forster.

Delia has given Gordon the nod and he has not let the team down. In fact, Delia said that Gordon’s influence in the dressing has been substantial.

On the field of play he evidently more vocal than Forster was and has a few years more experience as well, even though he has been out of the game for so long. He himself has indicated that he needs to improve more which is welcome, though for now he his doing a fine job.

His efforts last night kept Celtic in the game when they could quite easily have conceded. Disappointment was visible on his face at both goals but knowing that he does has room to sharpen up those reflexes and that decision-making is heartening given that he is also one of Celtic’s best players right now.

As far as the result goes I would have taken a draw before kick off. This competition may not be the Champions League but it doesn’t mean Celtic will walk it.

Ronny Deila has only obtained key players at the eleventh hour of the transfer window. Only now can he carve his vision onto the field of play with the squad he has.

That will take time and patience so in Europe particularly Celtic will need to tread carefully. Its as much a learning curve for Deila as it is for this squad.

It can be a platform to better things but should also be approached with greatest respect to the opponents in Group D. Nobody will be a pushover in this tournament but for me it is an excellent opportunity for Celtic to make a run.

The sad thing is that John Guidetti is one player we will not see in the group stage. If Celtic make it beyond Christmas in the Europa League, we might just get that wish.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie