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New Celtic management team go together like salt and pepper . . .

IT was probably the best first date of his life.

John Collins will offer honest advice on team affairs to new manager Ronny Deila. Picture: SNS
John Collins will offer honest advice on team affairs to new manager Ronny Deila. Picture: SNS

John Collins had scoured the internet to find out all he could about Ronny Deila and was impressed with what he had discovered. How they would get on as the prospective new Celtic management team, however, would only truly be determined once the pair had sat down and talked face-to-face.

Over dinner in a Glasgow restaurant they met and struck up an instant rapport, the football conversation flowing freely as they exchanged stories, opinions and personal philosophies. By the end the pair were animatedly moving around the condiments and the cutlery.

"I met Ronnie a few weeks ago and we had a long chat about his football philosophy, his way of doing things, my way of doing things, and we discovered we're very similar indeed," said Collins as he was unveiled officially as Celtic's No 2. "Up until Ronny signed I don't know if he had met other possible targets. But we then had another long chat together, this time over dinner, talking football and philosophies, how we do things and how we'd like to do things.

"It was a case of moving the salt and pepper pots around the table. The forks were involved as well, I think! We again got on very well and I was offered the job. So, I was delighted to come here and assist Ronny."

If there was a risk in Celtic appointing a 38-year-old Norwegian to his first overseas management role, then the plan was always to lessen that gamble by giving him a Scottish assistant, preferably one with strong coaching credentials and, ideally, a previous relationship with the club. Collins ticked all those boxes. There are few in the game who share the 46-year-old's enthusiasm for "bibs and cones" but he also brings a knowledge of the Scottish scene that Deila, so far, does not have, as well as his experience as a Celtic player between 1990 and 1996.

Collins has had a varied workload since resigning as the Hibernian manager in December 2007. He had a spell in charge of Charleroi in Belgium, went to Livingston as director of football and most recently has been coaching players within the Scottish Football Association's youth set-up. He has no qualms about returning to Celtic as assistant rather than manager in his own right, and expects Deila to allow him substantial input in the team. Collins expects the pair to be out on the training ground together most days and hopes there will be a fusion of their ideas and strategies.

"I've been coaching with the Scotland youth teams, under-18s and 19s, over the last year and thoroughly enjoyed it," added Collins. "I enjoy being on the training pitch, taking sessions and trying to make players better. That's always been the case and always will be the case.

"It's a slightly different role for me. Ronny's the manager and he'll pick the team and systems. I'll assist him but I'll always give him my opinion when asked - and it will be an honest opinion. He'll ask me questions and he'll want my response and it might not necessarily be the response he wants to hear. He'll take everybody's opinion, but a manager ultimately makes the decision. That's the way it should be.

"Once the decisions are made then we go as a team. Some managers don't coach. But Ronny is a coach as well as a manager. I'm going to enjoy that, working with the manager and the players."

Deila and Collins arrive at Celtic with the club in good nick both on and off the field. Collins praised the work of Neil Lennon over the previous four years but hoped there would still be some scope for improvement.

"The team has had great success in the last few years," he added. "There have been some excellent performances. So we have to try and maintain that, try our best to kick on again. It's a hard act to follow, of course, but as managers and players the key word when you walk through the door to work every day is 'improvement'.

"Everyone has to try and improve. That's got to be the mindset, to get better results and performances. It's going to be very difficult. But as soon as the boys come in on Tuesday, the aim is to be ready for that Champions League game and to win it."

Collins played down talk of there being any lingering ill-feeling between him and Scott Brown from their time together at Hibs. "I think it's important that we nail that. I never had any problems with Scott when I was Hibs manager. On the training pitch, he was brilliant for me. Ronny asked me if there were any problems between myself and Scott and I told him there were none whatsoever."

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