Celtic’s 4-1 Champions League qualifying defeat at Legia Warsaw was a major blow to Ronny Deila’s hopes of winning over the club’s supporters, says Andy Walker.
The Scottish champions now face an uphill task in the second leg to reverse their hammering in Poland, which included a red card for Efe Ambrose and two missed penalties from the hosts.
And Walker says 38-year-old Deila, the former Stromsgodset manager who was named as the surprise replacement for Neil Lennon, earlier this summer, must address his side’s defensive frailties.
“It’s the manner of the defeat; to lose 4-1, with Legia also missing two penalties, that tells you it was a shocking performance,” he told Sky Sports News.
“Ronny Deila was really looking to make some sort of impact. When he arrived at the club it was a big surprise to everyone. A club like Celtic appointing someone from Norwegian football was a huge risk and the supporters hadn’t heard of him. So, he was looking to make his mark pretty quickly.
“When you lose four away from home and concede two penalties it tells you that defensively they’ve got a lot of work to do.”
While Walker didn’t rule out Celtic staging a remarkable comeback, he pointed out that, with the second leg being played at Murrayfield as Celtic Park is being used for the Commonwealth Games, the Hoops’ home support may not be as emphatic as usual.
“The tie isn’t over, of course,” he said. “Celtic are more than capable of scoring three goals. But Celtic have lost a lot by giving up Celtic Park to the Commonwealth Games.
“Everyone realises Celtic Park on a Champions League night is pretty special and it gives a lot to the Celtic players, it puts a yard on their stride, and they’ll miss out on that. They’ve still got a slight chance of recovery, though.”
Celtic have yet to spend in this summer’s transfer window and while Walker appreciated the risk involved in bringing in players before knowing their Champions League fate, he says missing out on qualification will cost the club financially.
“Celtic don’t need to invest a great deal to win the Scottish title - but if they don’t make it through this qualifier you’re looking at a loss of £15m-£20m, that’s how much it means to Celtic to qualify for the Champions League,” he said.
“They do have a bit of money to spend but it’s a huge gamble to spend a great deal of money. I know the supporters are looking for a £5m striker, but why would you spend £5m on a striker when there’s no guarantee of getting into the Champions League?
“There is a balance to be struck and clearly Celtic have been very prudent, but I just hope it hasn’t cost them the prospect of Champions League football. Celtic supporters are so used to it over the last number of years and it really does define their season without any sort of title challengers.”