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Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill to Celtic 'just a rumour', says boss Ronny Deila

By Stuart McKinley

The occasion had irony written all over it.

There was Ronny Deila having his achievements over the last few weeks lauded as he collected the Scottish Premiership Manager of the Month award, while the elephant in the room loomed large - how much longer will he be in charge at Celtic?

Read more: Celtic weighs up move for Northern Ireland boss O'Neill after Euro 2016

The Norwegian's future as Parkhead boss has been in doubt almost since the day and hour he walked through the door. Every European exit or cup defeat over the last 18 months has brought about more question marks and losing in the Scottish League Cup semi-final to Ross County on Sunday brought more angst from already disgruntled fans.

There have been suggestions that one more defeat in a high-profile game will see Deila sacked.

As revealed in yesterday's Belfast Telegraph Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill (pictured) will be among the leading candidates for the job if Deila goes in the summer, or before it.

When asked about O'Neill taking his job Deila, who said after Sunday's game that he wasn't concerned about his job, replied: "Speculation is speculation."

The nature of the 12-month rolling contract that he is on at Celtic doesn't offer him much security and fans and board members alike will expect the Scottish Cup to be delivered as well as the mandatory league title success.

That's the way it is at Celtic nowadays, but Deila is happy to embrace the situation.

"The pressure is high and it should be high because this is a big, big club with a fantastic history," said Deila.

He's right about the pressure and with Rangers off the scene as far as the Scottish Premiership is concerned there is actually less wriggle room for Deila rather than more.

It's unthinkable that when they're not being pressed by their Old Firm rivals anyone but Celtic will win the league.

After Sunday's defeat Deila needs a result at Aberdeen tonight to left the pressure and the fans need something to get excited about again.

Deila can understand anger directed towards him, but he believes his team can transform the mood among the Celtic support when they go to Pittodrie.

"The fans are disappointed, I really, really understand," said Deila.

"When you have big ambitions and something lets you down, you get angry. I understand that from the fans as well. If not, they didn't care and that's the worst thing.

"Nothing is straightforward in football. I hope so, but it's always up or down, it's very rare that it's in between.

"I have to see a longer perspective. January has been very good, we scored a lot of goals, the team performed very well.

"The first 12 minutes (on Sunday) were fantastic, but we got caught and had a very difficult match when we had 10 men.

"We were very disappointed after the weekend, but we have a very important game again.

"We can put ourselves in a very important position now. We have everything to play for at Pittodrie.

"If we go nine points clear that would be very good and it would be very, very hard to catch us."

Deila was busy in the final hours of the transfer window, securing the services of Manchester City striker Patrick Roberts on loan before signing Colin Kazim-Richards from Feyenoord.

The 29-year-old is fresh from a two-week suspension by the Dutch club following a confrontation with a journalist.

The London-born Turkey international has had an eventful career which includes a conviction for making a homophobic gesture to fans of Brighton, one of his former clubs.

Former Brighton boss Mark McGhee once described him as "impossible to work with" but Deila is confident the forward will be a positive influence and be a leader in the Parkhead dressing room.

"Kazim is an experienced player who has qualities and can be a leader in the group," said the Norwegian, who is unlikely to play Kazim-Richards or fellow newcomer Roberts against Aberdeen.

"He's not the first player I have had with issues. When you have cameras around you all the time, there are always things coming up, but I talked a lot with him and he's motivated to play for Celtic.

"He's going to be a very good signing. He is very physical, he is very strong keeping the ball up.

"He has personality and that is important when you have young players. He is used to, at Feyenoord, playing in a team with a lot of young players around him and being a leader in that team.

"He had a fantastic last season for Feyenoord. We think he will suit the style of play here and the league and also make a difference in Europe."

On Roberts Deila said: "Patrick comes from City with great skills. He's a talented boy."

Scottish Premiership: Pittodrie (7.45pm)



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