The fall out from Thursday night’s Molde debacle is well and truly under-way and, I fear, will not go away for some time yet; although may not be a bad thing. As usual I’ve left it a couple of days to let some of the dust settle before chucking in my two pence worth to the debate. A debate that has raised some interesting points and divided opinion among the Celtic support. The main dividing issues revolve around whether or not Ronny Deila has a future as Celtic manager, and whether or not Kris Commons was right to publicly lambast Collins and Kennedy after his substitution. One area that has united the fans in agreement is that the performance was unacceptable, yet all too occurrence in Europe of late. See my article – A Thank You (of sorts) to Malmo – for another example of our recent European deficiencies.
In that article I purported that Celtic are no longer a Champions League level club, given the abject failings of Thursday night, might we now begin to question whether or not we are even a Europa League club? Which brings me round to the first of the dividing issues; is Ronny’s time at Celtic coming to an end?
On or Off the Bus?
The above is a debate often raised by the excellent 90Minute Cynic Podcast and, despite Thursday night, I’m nailing my colours to the ‘On the Deila Bus’ side of the debate… for now.
Thursday was unacceptable and not a game or performance to be taken in isolation. For too long now it has been too easy to play for Celtic. Jock Stein once famously stated that the ‘Celtic Jersey Does Not Shrink to Fit Inferior Players’, well today, it seems that that is no longer the case as too many inferior players have been given the chance to wear, and disgrace, the Hoops.
Although stating that I still believe in Ronny, you need only look to the shameful performances in Europe under his guidance over the last two seasons to support that argument. Legia, Maribor, Malmo, Molde… it does not make for pretty reading.
Against all four teams Celtic failed to the basics. Simple short passes were not completed, the defending was shambolic, there was an inability to break down well organised defences, and the team generally lacked the passion that we associate with Celtic teams of the past. Having grown up with O’Neill and Strachan teams, perhaps I’ve been spoiled on that last point. Either way, the failings of those games have been numerous and disappointingly repeated from game to game.
While Deila must take the blame for getting his tactics wrong for the above games, some strange substitutions, and an apparent inability to improve his players basics footballing skills on the training pitch, it is not all his fault. As another football saying goes ‘once you cross that white line, it’s eleven versus eleven’ and all too often our eleven have under-performed. Perhaps that’s the managers fault for not getting the players motivated enough, however, the players themselves must take the lion share of the blame for this. As professional footballers they should be able to self-motivate themselves for every game, especially big European nights. As professional footballers, they should know how to perform the games basics task; I.e. 5 yards passes to team-mates, tracking runs. Football is not rocket science, yet the fear and trepidation with which the Celtic team has played in recent European games would make you think otherwise. And that is not solely a failing of the manager.
My sympathy with Deila exists because he can only work with the players he has, and a good number of them are not up to standard. I like the system he wants the team to play and the style which he wants them to adopt, and when it works, when it all clicks together, my God does it work. But, with inferior players that happens all to infrequently. Perhaps that raises a further question, should Deila forgo his principles and play a more Scottish style, one more suited to the players abilities? Is this a failing manager that he hasn’t changed his philosophy on playing the game?
The more I read what I’m writing I’m beginning to think that perhaps I’m actually at the bus stop desperately hoping that the Deila bus arrives on time…for once.
The Commons Situation
In keeping with the On or Off the Bus theme, Kris Commons’ public displeasure at this midweek substitution has lead to division among the Celtic fans regards the lack of discipline shown by the midfield talisman.
Common’s divides opinion at the best of times; is he a lazy, work shy midfielder, or our most creative and dangerous attacker? Possibly both, and that makes him a frustrating player. He has the ability to literally do nothing for 89 minutes and then score a goal, to do nothing for 90 minutes and leave you wondering why he is on the pitch, or be the standout players.
On Thursday he was awful in the first half, as was the entire team, but picked his game up in the second half scoring our only goal – and momentarily giving us hope. He was certainly not the worst player in Hoops and was head and shoulders above Stefan Johansen, whom I’d forgotten was even on the pitch and would have been a far more likely substitution. And therein lies a major problem with Deila’s choice to sub off Commons. His perceived bias towards his countryman. As fans, we have a right to vent our feelings and anger over things like this if we feel they are damaging our club, or our chances in an individual game – we’re all Football Manager experts and feel that gives our criticisms further justification. Maybe it does. But as fans of the club, we are allowed to publicly vent. Kris Commons, as a player, as a professional, is not allowed to do so. Publicly, Commons should have accepted the decision and quietly sulked on the bench before letting rip at the management team in the privacy of the dressing room.
I agree with Commons that he should not have been the one to make way for Ciftci, but I do not agree with his attitude following the decision. Most creative player or not, Commons has done himself no favours with his public outburst and, in all honesty, should pay with his place in the team for the Dundee United match. No man is bigger than the club and all that.
In answer to those, like Chris Sutton, who support Commons’ reaction, I think Gordon Strachan called it right when he said that there was no telling what would have happened if Commons had stayed on. We could have lost four or five one, or we could have drawn 3-3; the same possibilities that came with Ciftci coming on for him. Deila made a call, a wrong one in most people’s eys but regardless of that the players should be big enough to accept his authority.
As for today and Dundee United, we have the perfect chance to put the Molde disappointment behind us and rack up another three league points, hopefully with a few goals and a performance befitting of the jersey. Who knows, Thursday might just be the catalyst for change that we need and maybe, just maybe, Deila will show some confidence in the exciting young talents coming through and give them a chance in the first team.