Celtic a club needing a new manager - and a fresh focus

Departing Celtic manager Ronny Deila
Ronny Deila has left Celtic despite winning a second successive league title

The reception area at Celtic Park was a hive of activity in the wake of the home team's obliteration of Motherwell in the final game of their season on Sunday.

Families gathered, some happy to hang out, others keen to get going. There was mention of flight times and taxis and airports.

There were hugs and handshakes and goodbyes. Midfielder Stefan Johansen moseyed through a door and hung his winners' medal round the neck of Jay Beatty, a young fan that Celtic people have taken to their hearts.

Johansen gifted Beatty his medal then fist-pumped. The whole scene was of a club at ease with itself after winning their fifth league title in a row. And yet, that's not the case.

There was a surreal air to it all given that somewhere in the building Ronny Deila was clearing his desk and waiting for his own lift to catch a flight that would have got him home to Norway by the time Sportscene brought pictures of the seven goals his, by then former, team had put on their hapless visitors.

There's a new manager coming and there's confusion as to what's going to happen when he does.

Celtic midfielder Stefan Johansen and young fan Jay Beatty
Celtic midfielder Stefan Johansen gave his medal to young fan Jay Beatty

Johansen, Kris Commons, James Forrest - are they staying or going? Stuart Armstrong, Gary Mackay-Steven, Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie, Scott Allan, Colin Kazim-Richards - where's their place in the grand scheme of things?

Scott Brown and Nir Bitton - do they deserve their protected status any longer? Leigh Griffiths - can he possibly have another 40-goal season next time and, if he doesn't, where's the back-up?

Scoring seven against Motherwell was impressive, but the fact that Deila started Christie, a midfielder, as his lone striker is reflective of what's been going on at Celtic. So many midfielders, so few forwards.

Sunday was an uplifting day for the club against a compliant side that was content to let them get on with it. They played with an elan that thrilled their support.

Their performance was so full of pace and devilment and movement and goals that it made you wonder where this kind of display had been for much of the domestic season.

There was no Brown and no Bitton on Sunday. Celtic played with the brake off and they looked good.

McGregor operated again as a defensive midfield buffer, but he did so while moving the ball at pace, something that Brown and Bitton don't always do. Everything was quick and intense. Armstrong, Christie, Tom Rogic, Patrick Roberts; they all got on the ball, all made things happen, all scored.

No pressure, of course. This was peace-time football. Motherwell arrived with a white flag. That helped.

The game was, in a sense, a throwback to Celtic's final match of last season - a 5-0 drubbing of Inverness Caledonian Thistle that proved to be a mirage, a vision of an improving team and a developing manager that wasn't real. Even with a 2-0 advantage over Malmo, and Virgil van Dijk in their ranks, their Champions League qualification ended in nightmare a few short months later.

Nobody talked then about the 5-0 laceration of Caley Thistle or the feelgood that came with a strong finish to the league season. Nobody will talk about the 7-0 horseing of Motherwell if, come August, Celtic have been dumped out of the Champions League by the fifth best team in Sweden (as they were by Malmo) or, later in the year, exit the Europa League at the hands of the sixth best team in Norway (where Molde finished in their domestic league).

Celtic have a lot of players, but they need a manager to streamline them, to split the wheat from the chaff and kick on with a new focus.

It's clear that, even when diminished, Celtic are far too good for Aberdeen. There's a gulf there that won't be breached. Rangers, with more spending power, may be the team most likely to light a fire under the champions next season.

Mark Warburton knows that the team that ran away with the Championship won't pull up many trees in the Premiership, so he's changing it. The accomplished teenager, Jordan Rossiter, has come in from Liverpool, Joey Barton is in talks about a move from Premier League-bound Burnley and there's speculation now that Niko Kranjcar, the 31-year-old Croatian international, is also interesting the Rangers manager.

Celtic's Stuart Armstrong scores against Motherwell
Stuart Armstrong was among the scorers in Sunday's 7-0 hammering of Motherwell

Warburton seems to be making his moves early. He has much recruiting to do to get his team into contention, but he's getting on with it. Celtic, meanwhile, are still wondering who they're going to put against the Englishman next season.

Nobody knows who it's going to be. Everybody's guessing. David Moyes is fancied, but he might have his eyes on a job in England. Brendan Rodgers the same. Roy Keane was Dermot Desmond's pick the last time, but the Republic of Ireland don't finish their group matches in Euro 2016 until 22 June.

In any event, his talks with chief executive Peter Lawwell two years ago didn't go well. Keane is not known for his capacity to forgive and forget. Equally, there appears to be little enthusiasm among the Celtic support for Keane.

With so much work to do before the Champions League qualifiers, can Celtic afford to wait for him in any case? Neil Lennon? Paul Lambert? Malky Mackay? In this space, we've already mentioned Chris Hughton, the Brighton manager.

On Monday, Hughton takes Brighton into the second leg of the Premier League semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday. His team was beset by injury in the first leg and trail 2-0. If they don't make it any further, Hughton is the kind of manager that Celtic should think about.

Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon
Neil Lennon was at Celtic Park on Sunday after being linked with a return as manager

His track record is worth analysing properly. When you strip away the craziness of trigger-happy chairmen, Hughton is a manager of substance. He may want to have another crack at it with Brighton, but he's a name worth throwing into the mix along with all the others.

Lawwell surely has a priority list. It's been obvious since Malmo - and definitely since Molde - that Deila was in mortal danger.

The 5-1 aggregate loss to the Norwegians happened across late October and early November. You wouldn't expect him to say anything publicly, but privately Lawwell must have been thinking ahead at that point.

For all the warm scenes at Celtic on Sunday, there is an uncertainty about the place. They may hold off any challenge and win a sixth consecutive title next season, but we know that that, on its own, won't be enough to save the manager.

There aren't a lot of Motherwells knocking about in the final qualification stage for the Champions League. Right now, Norrkoping lead the way in Sweden and Rosenborg are top in Norway. Before they know it, Celtic will be up against that type of opposition.

Beatable, for sure, but only if the lessons of the Deila era are learned. On the pitch and off, they need to get their focus back.

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