History will be kind to Ronny Deila when it looks back on his time as Celtic FC’s manager.
In the end, the Norwegian stepped down after just two years in charge of the Glasgow club. The appointment of Brendan Rodgers in his place heralded the start of a new golden age for the Hoops, but Deila still left a lasting impression that might yet go down in the history books.
The two Premiership titles won under Deila maintained Celtic’s charge toward a fabled 10-in-a-row league championships — a milestone that has become the club’s guiding light in recent years. What’s more, the 44-year-old instilled the principles that Rodgers built upon as his successor, harnessing a group of young players that included a certain Virgil Van Dijk , who’s now a starting centerback at Liverpool, the reigning winners of Champions League.
Now, Deila is charged with taking New York City FC forward, lured from Vålerenga in his homeland of Norway to succeed Dome Torrent at the Major League Soccer club.
Deila always positioned himself as a coach rather than a manager. He is engaging to talk to, well-mannered and articulate, but is best understood through the performances of his teams on the pitch. He is modern in his methods, expansive in his thought process and a good fit for NYCFC, whose fans have grown accustomed to an attractive, dynamic style of soccer.
This isn’t to say Deila doesn’t have an edge. The “Ronny Roar” became a staple of his time at Celtic, when he celebrated almost every win with an impassioned orchestration of the club’s support. It was a routine that makes Jurgen Klopp’s frequent celebrations in front of Liverpool’s Kop look tame. Deila also stripped down to his underwear on the pitch to celebrate Strømsgodset’s Norwegian league title win. The Yankee Stadium crowd might get a glimpse of more than they expected.
The biggest criticism of Deila during his time at Celtic came from his somewhat questionable big-game record. Celtic managers are often defined by whether they qualify for the Champions League group stages. In both seasons, Deila failed to lead the club to that achievement. The Hoops lost matches they should have probably won and faltered when it mattered most.
It was a similar story in the cup competitions. Celtic suffered humiliating semifinal defeats to Inverness CT, Ross County and Rangers, their bitter rival who at the time found itself in Scottish soccer’s second tier. This must be an area for personal improvement at NYCFC, given how Torrent — and Patrick Vieira before — failed to make significant playoff progress despite impressive regular season performances.
Deila wasn’t Celtic’s first choice for a new manager in the summer of 2014. Roy Keane was identified as the man the Scottish side wanted to take charge, and Deila lined up to be the former Manchester United midfielder’s assistant. When Keane ultimately rejected Celtic’s approach, Deila was instead handed the top job.
In truth, he never managed to shake this. Hired between Neil Lennon, a club legend, and Rodgers, one of the best coaches working in world soccer today, Deila was seen as a low-caliber appointment, something of a stop-gap.
But there is no lingering malice toward the Norwegian. Celtic fans appreciate what he did for the club. The Hoops even tweeted their congratulations to Deila following his move to NYCFC.
He might not be a big name in the mold of someone like Vieira or Gerardo “Tata” Martino — who led Atlanta United FC to an MLS Cup in just his second season — but Deila is a manifestation of New York City FC’s recent strategy. As a harnesser of youth and an advocate of good soccer, he is everything they are looking for right now. Look a little closer, and his fingerprints are still on Celtic.