When then-Stromsgodset boss Ronny Deila extracted the princely sum of £2m from Celtic for Stefan Johansen, the 38-year-old former Norway youth international could hardly have envisaged joining the midfielder in Glasgow by the start of the summer.
A little over six months on, Deila is preparing to manage the Bhoys in a competitive home fixture for the first time, albeit at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium due to Scotland’s second city hosting the Commonwealth Games.
Having beaten KR Reykjavik 1-0 in Iceland, bwin.com rate Celtic as nailed-on 1/100 favourites to progress to round three of Champions League qualifying, with the SPL champions boosted from 8/13 to 3/5 to put three or more goals past their low-key visitors.
Neil Lennon’s May departure caused some panic amongst the Parkhead high-ups, who turned to ultimately uninterested Republic of Ireland assistant Roy Keane before settling on Deila.
The majority of football fans who claim to have heard of him before his appointment are telling porkies, but a mere cursory glance at Deila’s history in the game gives a strong indication as to why Celtic plumped for such an unknown.
In a recent interview with that bastion of Scottish topicality, The Daily Record, the man who handed Deila his first taste of coaching experience revealed much about the new man in Paradise.
Oyvind Jacobsen, sports director of Norwegian small-fry IL Brodd, acquiesced to Deila’s request to take over coaching responsibilities at the Stavanger club nine years ago, while still a player at Viking.
The rookie tactician’s training methods were so well liked that a group of 15 players swelled to 50 within a week, and – despite Deila only sticking around for four months – Jacobsen credits his former coach with Brodd’s subsequent successive promotions:
“Ronny coached us in pre-season but created such a foundation of knowledge and enthusiasm we moved up two leagues in the next two years.”
Deila left for Stromsgodset, where he saw out the last two campaigns of his playing career before taking the managerial reins.
After an unspectacular twelfth-place finish in his first season in charge, Stromsgodset went on to win the Norwegian Cup in 2010 and climbed up the league ladder from eighth to second over the next couple of campaigns, before wrestling the Tippeligaen title from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Molde grasp in 2013.
Deila is also credited with turning around the careers of Johansen, who was ‘a little fat perhaps, with an attitude problem’ when he arrived at Stromsgodset, and Norwegian international striker Marcus Pederson, who was sold to Dutch side Vitesse for £1m-plus in 2010.
The Daily Record signed off their piece with a quote from Jacobsen, stating:
“I cannot guarantee he will be a success at Celtic but I guarantee there has never been a Norwegian coach more determined to do well.”
Not all Hoops fans will have heard of Deila prior to his appointment, and many will have hoped for a ‘name’ like Keane to add a sprinkle of stardust, but Celtic might just have stumbled upon a far superior option by accident.