Posted by: Christian Wulff | July 29, 2012

The Awesomeness of Ronny Deila

So, it’s been a while. Work, holiday and standard laziness combined to create a big break in blogging on the delightful subject of Norwegian football. Not that there hasn’t been plenty to write about. A thesis wouldn’t cover the twin mysterious of how Martin Andresen is still in his job and how Vålerenga is in 5th and not 15th place in the league. A New Yorker article might not give you enough room  to speculate on where Molde’s season is going to end; with a second successive league title and qualification to the Champions League group stage, or just a really awkward Xmas party with Solskjær and the board swapping passive aggressive speeches about each other.

The transfer window – which still isn’t even halfway closed – has also thrown up plenty of material. There were  loud chorus of ‘good for him’ when  Harmeet Singh finally left Vålerenga and a manager who had no idea how to get the most out of his ability. His move to Feyenoord sees him becoming maybe the highest-profile player of Indian origin in European football. He’s joined there by another great Norwegian prospect, Omar Elabdellaoui, who has agreed a year-long loan deal with the Dutch side from Manchester City. Somehow Tarik Elyounoussi has not left Fredrikstad yet, and speculation around Markus Henriksen will continue up until the last day of August. I did write a piece of Henriksen and Rosenborg for The Herald a few weeks back, but that’s because they paid me.

But there was never any doubt of the subject for this piece. It’s something everybody, football fans or not, should be fully aware of. A single truth that you must take with you out in the world and spread like the gospel it surely is: The general awesomeness of Ronny Deila.

It’s not that long ago since I wrote about Deila and the fantastic work he’s done with Strømsgodset. That was only after the second game of the season, and at no point did I ever imagine that 15 games later I’d return to how awesome Deila is because Strømsgodset had taken a six points lead at the top of the table.  But after demolishing hapless Fredrikstad 5-0 at home on Friday night, Espen Nystuen’s late equaliser for Lillestrøm against Molde yesterday meant Strømsgodset further stretched their lead to Solskjær’s reigning champions.

Even in a league as unpredictable as Tippeligaen, this is extraordinarily. When sporting director Jostein Flo promoted the then 32-year old Della from his assistant coach position before the 2008 season, it was an appointment made in line with the intended overarching philosophy of the club: a strong focus on youth, genuine player development, and a clever transfer policy. Deila was the perfect fit. A young couch with extreme confidence in his distinct, offensive playing style, not only comfortable with the club’s low wage structure and limited transfer funds, but a proponent of it.

Although Flo and the board have steered the club in exactly the right direction, it is hard to see that this year’s success could have come under any other coach. There is definitely something a little it special about Ronny Deila.  A qualified teacher he has his perhaps biggest strength in man management. Not only focused on getting the players to contribute and excel within his playing philosophy, he puts just as much importance on how they develop in a personal, human sense. Like for any teacher, it’s about creating a group environment where your students – or players –  feel trusted and respected, given the space and licence to try and fail, but at the same time being continuously challenged to achieve and perform.

Strømsgodset have a very dedicated and genuine fan base, helped immensely by their position as the leading vehicle of local identity in Drammen, the undervalued and often mocked town located 30 minutes outside Oslo.  But in terms of attendance, they can only rely on a gate of just below 6000, which would usually be around the 10th highest in Tippeligaen. In addition, their location, history and lack of prestige have never made them the most attractive to potential sponsors.

Instead, Strømsgodset needed to be Moneyball. Today, there is hardly a more successful proponent in European football of the already overused term used to describe a the methods of a club with limited resources but with an excellent scouting set-up and an above-average common sense approach to transfer fees and wage demands.

My favourite stat about Strømsgodset this year is that of the 20 outfield players representing them this season only two are between the age of 23 and 32. One of them, 29 year old Lars Iver Strand had been frozen out by Andresen at Vålerenga, getting only two appearances since in the last two seasons. Deila has allowed him the space and time to blossom up again at Strømsgodset, Strand now coming close to the potential that lead him to be capped for Norway seven years ago.

It is the way Deila has managed to blend and develop this group of youngsters, veterans and undervalued talent such as Strand into an almost irresistible force of aggressive, offensive football that makes him the most unique coach in the Norwegian league since Nils Arne Eggen. A group with an unshakable confidence in its combined strength, but also with a grounded humility and the knowledge that they need to perform at a level higher than just the sum of their parts.

Strømsgodset’s season is also a shining example of the value of stability and long-term values. While league positions of 11th, 12th, 7th and 8th the last four seasons have been impressive in terms of the players and financial strength the club have, nothing had really prepared Norwegian football for how spectacularly tings would come together for Strømsgodset this year. It seems it has all been  leading up to this. Where they to hold on and win their first league title in 42 years, it would be the most sensational achievement in Norwegian football since Moss won the league as a promoted team in 1987. Their coach that year was, of course, Nils Arne Eggen.

He would leave the club after that season to begin his now legendary transformation of Rosenborg from a decent Norwegian club side to Champions League stalwart. If Deila leads Strømsgodset to the league title this year, his next move would be just as eagerly anticipated. He has a very long way to go in order to equal Eggen’s achievements and his contribution to Norwegian football. But Ronny Deila is taking some very determined steps in that exact direction.



  1. Ronny bhoy welcome to paradise sound like were getting a cracking coach hail hail

  2. Welcome…

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