Celtic fans are sure to enjoy Ronny Deila telling the story of how he got the Celtic manager’s job in 2014.
The Norwegian was a surprise choice as Neil Lennon’s replacement three years ago and went on to have a memorable two-year spell as the club’s boss.
In that time, he won the Scottish Premiership twice and added a League Cup to that in his debut season.
But he was unable to make an impact in Europe and the domestic performances and results were far from convincing, ultimately leading to him resigning from the job towards the end of the 2015/16 season.
Deila’s time as manager will always be remembered by supporters – particularly because it came before Brendan Rodgers’ historic debut campaign in charge.
And fans should enjoy reading Deila’s story of how he actually ended up with the job three years ago.
He tells how he was initially lined up to be Roy Keane’s assistant manager and compares Dermot Desmond to Donald Sutherland while telling that story.
“Deila: ‘About a month before I came to Glasgow the club had got in touch with me via a contact that Strømsgodset had at Manchester City. He said Celtic was interested and asked if I could come over to Manchester to meet them. It was a very informal meeting, chatting mostly about how Celtic had needed to change their way of doing things. Early this century Celtic could compete on wages with English Premier League clubs; they brought in Chris Sutton, John Hartson and managed to keep Henrik Larsson for many years. Then the TV revenue in England exploded, every club now getting something like 2 billion (£200 million) per club, while Celtic gets 30 million (£3 million), the same as Rosenborg would get in Norway. The difference is now so big that it forces you to think differently, to look at different markets, buy younger players, develop your own talent.’
“Interviewer: ‘Scottish clubs could also afford to bring in big names in terms of managers. I mean, you’re probably not as expensive as Dick Advocaat?’
“Deila: ‘Exactly. So we agreed on how Celtic had to be run and how they needed to do things differently. Then I didn’t hear much more for a while. I went to Marbella (during the mid-season break in Norway) with a mate. It had been a very good first part of season, second in the league despite all our injuries. This was a well deserved holiday.
“While I was there Celtic phoned and said they wanted me to come to London the next day to meet the owner. To be honest, I was really enjoying my holiday but I obviously couldn’t say no. I flew over at 6am the next day. London was pouring with rain. I’d been given an address in a very nice area of the city, got a taxi there and rang the bell. Nobody answered. I phoned my contact and he said they were on their way back from lunch and just to ring the bell again as the maid would let me in.
“When I got in I was showed to a room with a big harp, a massive piano and with big Irish murals on the wall. You could tell this was a man who knew his history, was intelligent and had money. I sat down and waited, feeling a bit like a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. They came back from lunch and I met the owner, who reminded me a bit of Donald Sutherland. I thought I just needed to tell them who I am and what I stand for and then whatever happens, happen. Again, it was quite informal.
“After a while he said it was obvious that I knew what was I doing and asked whether I could replicate what I had done successfully at Strømsgodset in Scotland? I said I didn’t know, as I haven’t tried yet, but that I believed people are very much the same in Scotland and that what I’d done in Norway was transferable. Then he asked what I thought it be like to coach multi-millionaires? Again I said I didn’t know, I would need to try it.
“It was all clever questions – this was clearly a man who knew what he was looking for, where he wanted to go and someone who could tell what people stood for. He did say it could be difficult for me to come to Celtic as an outsider, not knowing what it was all about and being as young as I was. He asked whether I thought it would be easier to be an assistant manager at first, learn that way and then take over as manager at a later time.
“I said that if I were to be an assistant manager, it had to be under a really good leader. The owner said; “So it would have to be someone with a big enough name that you’d say ‘yes’ immediately to be their assistant? Like, you would you want to be Arsene Wenger’s assistant?”
“And I said, yes, then of course would I’d want to be an assistant, who wouldn’t want to work with him.
“Soon after that the meeting was over and I was back out in the rain, trying to get a taxi back to the airport to return to Marbella. I was so exhausted when I got back I turned off my phone and didn’t talk about Celtic with anyone for 24 hours. I only told my mate that I had been was myself so we’ll see what happens.
“Two days later Celtic phoned again and said they were very interested in bringing me to the club. They thought it would be best that I started as an assistant manager in order to build up my experience in terms of the culture, the club and everything else, and then perhaps move up to the manager role eventually.
“They asked whether I wanted to be Roy Keane’s assistant manager. I almost laughed out loud as the whole thing was so surrealistic. I have great respect for Roy Keane, he has a fantastic personality and it was an opportunity I just couldn’t say no to. It would have been an experience for life, no matter what would have happened, although I’m sure it would have been some tough times under him as well! So I agreed to be his assistant. Then the deal with Keane fell through and everything was up in the air again. Apparently, other managers were being discussed and a lot of talks taking place.
“Two days after I’m back from Marbella, Celtic phoned me again and said they wanted me for the manager role. They had been enquiring about me all over, checking if I was strong enough to take on such a role. At that point there was no going back for me, not a single thought that I wasn’t going to do this. I was adamant that I was taking the job. I didn’t even look at the contract offer, I wasn’t interested in it at all, I just wanted the job.”