Desmond Kane

Deila had more chance of scaling fjord cliff in his underpants than leading Celtic to Champions League

Desmond Kane

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A few weeks before the World Cup finals began, I found myself chatting to David James, the former England goalkeeper earning a crust these days as a television pundit.

While discussing the merits of what the enormous Fraser Forster would bring to the England squad, I suggested to James that his compatriot would never have enjoyed such recognition if he had joined Celtic rather than opt for Bristol City after the 2010 World Cup finals.

James's wincing facial expressions said everything when the thought of playing in Scotland crossed his mind.

The former Liverpool player had held discussions with the then Celtic manager Neil Lennon, but the transfer fell down due to James's need to be with his family in England. This was despite Celtic being willing to fly him up and down to Glasgow every week.

One suspects appearing in Scottish football was as much of a problem for James. And that was when Rangers remained a clear and present danger to their traditional rivals in the old Scottish Premier League (SPL).

It was apparently a similar issue that prevented Malky Mackay progressing with his interest in the Celtic job earlier this summer.

Like Mackay, the sacked Manchester United manager David Moyes washed up at Murrayfield on Wednesday to watch his former club suffer a 6-1 aggregate humping by Legia Warsaw in the Champions League qualifiers. Like Mackay, Moyes would not go near a job with such poverty of resources available.

According to this onlooker's sources, Mackay would have loved to manage Celtic, but could not stomach the drudge of domestic football in Scotland. Visits to Inverness and St Mirren would not work for Mackay after several years enjoying the weekly joust in the Championship and Premier League running lesser - but richer - clubs such as Watford and Cardiff City.

In the end, Celtic opted for an unknown Norwegian coach in Ronny Deila, who had been celebrated in his native land after a successful six-year spell coaching Strømsgodset.

He has been described as a young, progressive coach, a Scandinavian version of Juergen Klopp if you like, a figure whose work he has studied at close range. But even the Borussia Dortmund martinet could not have saved Deila or Celtic from their somewhat predictable doom against Legia in Edinburgh.

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A few years ago, images appeared of Deila doing press ups in just his underwear after Strømsgodset avoided relegation. They were all the rage when he touched down in Glasgow. It was comical, but life is no laughing matter now.

In truth, Deila had more chance of scaling a Norwegian fjord cliff in his underpants than leading Celtic to the Champions League for a third straight season.

Celtic's loss was shocking not solely because of the defeat, but because of the manner and margin of it. They were outclassed, outfought and out-thought. They were well beaten, not by a great team, but by a better unit. Yet Legia are a side who are 10th in their domestic table with four points from three games which suggests they are hardly impregnable.

It also tells you where Celtic have gone only 18 months or so after their 2-1 win over Barcelona at Celtic Park helped them reach the Champions League last 16.

Deila must shoulder some of the blame for the tactics, but what difference do formations really make when you have unsteady performers like Efe Ambrose unwilling or unable to respond to orders?

It is difficult to fathom the board's reluctance to furnish their new manager with the level of resources needed when it was becoming clear a year ago that their 'buy low, sell high' policy had started to falter as badly as boom and bust.

Like Deila in Warsaw last week and in Edinburgh last night, there is no plan B at Celtic. Just buy and sell. And never hold what you've got. It proved to be as much an act of folly as giving up Celtic Park for the Commonwealth Games' opening night - Murrayfield was more or less another away match for the club.

Truth will out. Lennon's decision to quit the job - followed by Roy Keane's rejection of the role in favour of an assistant manager's position at Aston Villa - is all starting to make sense now.

Lennon was not blinded by the downsizing taking place in front of him that made his task impossible.

Whether or not Deila is a cheap option is irrelevant. He is the Celtic manager, and should be treated with the decorum that such a position demands.

Can you call signing a goalkeeper Craig Gordon, a man who is returning from serious long-term injury, and Jo Inge Berget, a Norwegian forward on loan from Cardiff, adequate planning for attempting to progress in world football's biggest club competition?

In many respects, Deila has been hung out to dry by the club's largest shareholder Dermot Desmond, a billionaire who could have helped his young manager.

Celtic have earned an estimated £33 million in prize money from the Champions League these past two years with pre-tax profits of £21.3m announced in February, but the policy of flogging the family jewels while failing to bring in proper quality eventually catches up with clubs.

Legia Warsaw had it tougher in the previous round against the Irish champions St Pats.

The former Celtic striker Frank McAvennie has berated the board's lack of spending power. It was a bit rich coming from a man who could not wait to get out of the club to get back to London and West Ham a year after winning the Premier League and Cup double in 1988, but he had a point.

Nobody expects Celtic to compete for the Champions League fighting out of Scotland.

But nobody expects such a gutless, uninspiring and spiritless performance that was offered up against the Polish team.

Rather than watching their side's match at Murrayfield, the Celtic board would have been better looking in the mirror.

They flogged Victor Wanyama to Southampton for £12 million, Gary Hooper to Norwich for £5.5m and Kelvin Wilson to Nottingham Forest for £2.5m last summer. Joe Ledley headed for Crystal Palace and Georgios Samaras has gone under freedom of contract.

It could be argued that all five men have not been replaced. The situation could worsen with goalkeeper Fraser Forster expected to be sold to Southampton for £8m. Last season's player of the year Virgil van Dijk could join him for a similar price.

So Celtic could cushion the loss of £15m Champions League prize money with those sales, but what state will the squad be in? And what will the morale be like among the support having stumped up for season books?

Charlie Mulgrew must be one of the poorest captains in the club's history. He should not have been representing the side in the second leg after an utterly abysmal performance in the first leg, but who did Deila have to turn to?

The Scottish Premiership is more like a jockey dismounting to walk a mare around a track than a one-horse race, but Celtic's supporters live for a higher level that they will be deprived of this season due to a lack of forward planning.

It is chronic conduct for a club - the first British winners of the European Cup in 1967 - who like to be viewed among world football's elite.

Celtic will continue to bleed fans who have better things to do with their time than top up the salaries of directors who seem to have forgotten their club's roots.

While it is a profitable business, Celtic remains first and foremost a football team that people pay their hard earned money to watch.

By Desmond Kane

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