In a 2013 article on Ronny Deila’s tactical approach, Josimar Fotball wrote: “The pass game usually starts from the keeper and is most often based on rehearsed patterns – and they have good conditions to win the ball back if they lose it.”
The Norwegian, who has been a first-team manager for 12 seasons in Europe, was named the fourth head coach of the New York City Football Club on Monday – in part due to those coaching methods which mimic the previous lessons taught to the current City squad.
The club did not disclose details about Deila’s backroom staff.
“Knowing we had a very strong group of players returning in 2020, we wanted to recruit an experienced manager who played in a similar style as we have done in the past few years,” NYCFC sporting director, David Lee said in the club’s release. “Ronny meets that criteria.”
Deila was in his sixth season at Strømsgodset in 2013 when he led the club to its first Norwegian league title in 43 years. He also won the 2010 Norwegian Cup during his run in Drammen (2008-14).
Hired by the Celtic Football Club in 2014, Deila won back-to-back Scottish league titles in Glasgow while also capturing the Scottish Cup. He was replaced by Brendan Rodgers at Parkhead and moved on to Norwegian side, Vålerenga, in 2017.
Deila signed a three-year extension with Vålerenga on Dec. 12 but less than a month later was persuaded to advance the construction of NYCFC who begin preseason on Jan. 11.
City won their first Eastern Conference regular season title in 2019 but were eliminated in the conference playoff semi-finals for the fourth consecutive season.
“When the opportunity came up to join New York City FC as their new head coach, it was a dream come true for me to manage an amazing club in a great city,” Deila said in the club’s release.
Deila was preceded by Jason Kreis (2015), Patrick Vieira (2016-18) and Dome Torrent (2018-19).
“The way I want to play and the way NYCFC has played is very similar. I’m a very attacking coach. I’d rather win 5-4 than 1-0.”
Deila once told Nettavisen Sport in Norway: “Attacking football is essential. I get uncomfortable and unable to sit and watch my own team if it’s afraid to attack and is passive.”
While not boasting an explicit coaching relationship with the City Football Group like his forerunners Vieira and Torrent, the 44-year old Deila developed connections when Manchester City FC loaned multiple players to the teams he coached including Jason Denayer – the current vice-captain of Olympique Lyon in Ligue 1.
Deila, who made frequent coaching education visits to Manchester City, also gave first team debuts to 16-year old Martin Ødegaard, who later moved to Real Madrid, and 18-year old Kieran Tierney now with Arsenal.
“Many players who have been developed by Ronny have gone on to have careers at the highest levels of football,” Lee said.
Born in the southern town of Porsgrunn, the 6-2 Deila played as a central defender in over 350 professional matches and became a player/coach at Strømsgodset in 2006 before retiring and taking over the head job in 2008 – the same year that Jurgen Klopp started at Borussia Dortmund.
He mentored one of Klopp’s current Liverpool defenders – the 2019 UEFA Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or runner-up Virgil Van Dijk – at Celtic FC. Deila’s tactics, positive energy and success at Strømsgodset had drawn comparisons to the Liverpool manager.
“I have great respect for Klopp’s achievements at Dortmund,” Deila told Scotsman.com in 2014 before accepting the Celtic position. “The comparison with Klopp is a huge recognition of my work at Strømsgodset and it is nice to have it put into such a context, but I do not feel like Klopp yet.”
Although he won three trophies in two seasons at Celtic FC where he coached current New York City winger, Gary Mackay-Steven, the allure of Deila faded when he was unable to find success in European football combined with a devastating loss to Old Firm rivals Rangers in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup in 2016. He won the league three weeks later and then was dismissed.
“I think the Celtic job came at the wrong time for him,” a current Celtic FC employee told Pro Soccer USA on the condition of anonymity. “I think he underestimated the size of the club.”
The capacity for Strømsgodset’s stadium is 6,000 while 60,000 rabid supporters fill Celtic Park each home match for the Hoops.
“But he was a great developer of players and when I was in his company, I found him to be a great guy.”
In addition to observing the methods in Dortmund and Manchester City, Deila also spent time educating himself at Barcelona, Ajax, Rennes and Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers.
“The most important talent I have, I think, is humility,” Deila told Nettavisen Sport. “I am curious about others, curious about learning.”
“He has the greatest potential without a doubt,” said his assistant at Strømsgodset, Alexander Aas. “He’s very curious and always wants to bring in expertise from the best. He uses examples from Barcelona and Chelsea.”
Deila has now accepted the test of a new league in a new country. And his new boss has confidence in his new manager.
“Ronny is incredibly passionate and excels at building a culture and environment in the places he’s worked,” said Lee, in his first season as City’s sporting director. “We know we have a fantastic team that we believe is ready to win. Ronny is a winner. He won at Strømsgodset. He won at Celtic. We want to lift trophies and Ronny has done that in his career.”
And Deila is a man of his word. He vowed to strip if Strømsgodset avoided relegation in 2009. When Strømsgodset defeated Viking in their final home match to secure safety, Deila ran joyously around the field in just his underpants.