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A team built to last must also put short-term success first

HEARING Ronny Deila say he needed more time to build a team in the immediate aftermath of Celtic's Champions League exit on Wednesday night felt a bit like someone waking up on Boxing Day morning and vowing to start their Christmas shopping.

It seemed too late to make a difference this year and far too early to be planning for the year ahead.

Deila has only been Celtic manager for two months, a relatively short period and certainly not long enough to implement the long-term project he clearly has in mind. That said, however, his key objective upon succeeding Neil Lennon was to try to steer Celtic into the group phase of the Champions League and, barring a late reprieve by UEFA, he has failed in that task.

Navigating a safe passage through three qualifying rounds was going to be a difficult task, but given the lack of a serious challenge on the domestic front, this was going to be another season where success would be defined on how the team performed on the European front. A 6-1 aggregate defeat by Legia Warsaw means Deila is off to something of a shaky start.

One of the first things the Norwegian would have done after starting the job would have been to look at the dates of Celtic's qualifying fixtures. The next would have been to run his eye over the group of players he had inherited to assess whether changes were needed and to what extent. Deila did both and yet chose not to add substantially to his squad either before the second qualifying round against KR Reykjavik or the subsequent tie against Legia.

There can be three possible reasons for this. Firstly, Deila could have decided the players at his disposal would suffice. He could have looked at the starting line-up for the final qualifying tie against Shakhter Karagandy last year - the result that took Celtic into the group phase - and realised only Joe Ledley and Georgios Samaras had since moved on. Similarly, of the team that started in the defeat of Ajax in the group phase, only Samaras is no longer at the club. Deila, in theory, could have decided this was a group of sufficient pedigree to make it through without the need to call for reinforcements.

That theory, though, is a non-starter. Deila stated repeatedly in the aftermath of Wednesday's defeat that the team "isn't good enough" and got quite animated when it was put to him that the majority of his squad had managed to take Celtic into the group stage in the two previous seasons. "The squad is not the same as it was a year ago," he insisted. "I can count three or four players who are not with Celtic now."

Lennon's side only just scraped into the group stage last year and then won only one match when they got there. The need for fairly extensive squad refurbishment was evident.

The second theory, then, is that Deila is still taking stock. His managerial history suggests he is a man who likes to take his time, to establish solid foundations and to build slowly from there. In his first two seasons as Stromsgodset manager Deila's focus was simply on saving the club from relegation. Having achieved that, things gradually began to improve. They won the Norwegian Cup in his third season, finished second in his fifth, then won only their second top-league title in his sixth year in charge.

It was evolution that moved at a glacial clip, with Deila gradually getting his message across and finding the players he needed to fit his philosophy. Again in his post-match address at Murrayfield he gave the impression he also sees his work at Celtic as a long-term project. "We need players with pace, with ambition and who are young," he said. "I want to build a team that can last for many years."

In an ideal world Deila would get as long as he likes to implement his Utopian vision but that is a luxury rarely granted to any Old Firm manager. Creating a legacy must go hand-in-hand with short-term success, not replace it.

A desire not to rush into things, however, might not be the only reason for Deila's reluctance to delve into the transfer market. The third theory is that he is yet to receive sufficient funds to spend on the players he would like to recruit. Judging by the angry reaction of many of the Celtic fans at full-time, this appears to be their school of thought, too.

The supporters note the vast sums the club has made through transfers, as well as the £33m accrued from competing in the Champions League, and wonder whether it would asking too much for some of it to be spent on proven talent that would make the qualifying rounds each year less of a gamble.

Deila is too soon in the door at Celtic and seemingly too polite to say as much himself. Privately, though, it must surely have crossed his mind, too.

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