JOHN COLLINS has been named Celtic assistant manager in a move that may lack surprise but contains a definitive statement about how the club intends to run its football business.
The partnership of Ronny Deila, recruited from Stromsgodset, and Collins, the former Hibernian manager, is the most obvious indication that Celtic will pursue a style of play that will course through the club, starting from under-age level.
Deila has made his reputation in constructing teams to play aggressive, attacking football and Collins is simply dogmatic in his view that the ball must be played from the back and that possession should be treasured.
This "Celtic way" was followed by Neil Lennon, who resigned as Celtic manager last month, but the appointment of Deila and Collins points to a strategy that will involve the imposition of a style on the club and a willingness to bring through young players in an era where Celtic must compete in Europe without the financial resources of their continental rivals.
Collins has been working with the Scottish Football Association recently and this experience has confirmed his view that the culture in Scotland must be adapted to a more technical style of play. "I am tired of seeing players lump the ball forward," he said in an interview with Herald Sport recently.
The former midfielder brings both a domestic and continental experience to the No.2 post. He made 229 appearances for Celtic from 1990 to 1996, also enjoying spells at Monaco, Everton, Fulham and Hibernian. He won 58 caps for Scotland, playing in both the 1998 World Cup and Euro 1996 tournaments.
He won the Scottish League Cup in 2007 while managing Hibernian. He managed Charleroi in Belgium in 2008 and was appointed director of football at Livingston in 2012.
Deila said: "I am delighted to appoint John to the position of assistant manager. I have had a number of meetings with John, I can see what the club means to him and I can see the qualities that he will bring to Celtic.
"He is a first-class coach and has ideas on football which are very similar to mine so I am sure he will be a great addition to my team.
"He will start immediately and together we will now prepare for this first day of training next week. We have important matches in the near future so I am pleased that I have been able to secure him so quickly. Now we can get to work."
Collins said: "It is a huge honour for me to return to Celtic, the club which has always been such a major part of my life. I am grateful to Ronny for giving me this wonderful opportunity and I look forward to working closely with him and the players to ensure that we can continue to bring the good times to Celtic.
"I know what a great club Celtic is and I know exactly what the club means to our fans. I will support the manager in every way and I am sure that together with our players, the backroom staff and the fans, we can all play our part in bringing success to the club."
Concerns have been raised about the relationship between Collins and Scott Brown, the Celtic captain. Collins was the victim of a dressing room revolt while both he and Brown were at Hibs but sources at Celtic insisted last night there were no lingering issues between coach
Collins will supply Deila with much-needed local knowledge but he is also an innovative coach, keen to pursue developments in scouting, sports psychology and science.
He and Deila will work with John Park, Celtic's manager of football development, to recruit players ahead of a Champions League qualifying campaign that begins next month.
His most significant presence, though, will be on the training ground. A lucrative playing career has given Collins the freedom to pick his jobs.
The attraction of the Livingston post was that it afforded him the scope to install a system that would produce not only a successful club but a string of technically accomplished players. Marc McNulty and Stefan Scougall, two of the products of the desire to blood young players, are now at Sheffield United.
Collins, 46, left Livingston on principle after disagreeing with the club hierarchy's decision to dismiss Gareth Evans, the first-team coach.
He returned to media work while coaching Scotland's under-19 and under-18 players. In an interview with Herald Sport in April, Collins spoke highly of the mindset and style brought to Celtic by Lennon.
Asked if he harboured hopes of a return to the game, Collins said he would do so if the right opportunity arose. "I am a builder," he said.
The foundations were being laid last night for the first day of training at Lennoxtown next week.