By Michael Lewis
Fans or no fans, New York City FC head coach Ronny Deila has been involved with one of the biggest derbies in the world and even some smaller ones in his native Norway.
So, he certainly gets the Hudson River Derby, which he will be introduced to when his team meets the Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. Thursday at 7 p.m. (YES, MSG).
He was at the helm of Celtic for several derby encounters against Glasgow archrival Rangers for the Old Firm Derby from 2014-15. With Delia running the show, Celtic won the Scottish Premier League crown twice and 2015 Scottish League Cup.
“We lost in penalties, the last one,” Deila said during a Tuesday morning media conference call. “But the first one we won semifinal we won the cup that year. That was a big one of course. I don’t think you’ll find so many, maybe a couple, two, three, rivalries that is something compared to that. That’s very, very special and so to have experienced that I’m very, very humble and happy that I have.”
When he was a player, Delia remembered when he played Odd Grenland against Pors in one of the Norwegian lower division derbies.
“I was hated,” he said, noting that he went from Pors to Odd Grenland. “That was not very popular, but I went to the right club because that was in the second division that time in 1993. Seven years later we won the top division. They were in the third division, second, third division. So, I chose the right club. And, we always beat them.”
On Thursday, Deila will experience another derby at RBA, even without fans.
As it turns out, NYCFC will call the stadium home – Yankee Stadium won’t be available until after the baseball postseason – through the MLS return to play Phase I and II.
He loves RBA, but not enough to want to play there all the time.
“It’s never going to be our home pitch, that’s for sure,” he said. “But at the same time, it is very good that we have played there. So we know that arena very good.”
Earlier this year, NYCFC played a pair of Concacaf Champions League matches there.
“We know the pitch,” he said. “So, we have to do everything I can to make it as home as possible even though it’s never going to be our home pitch, that’s for sure.”
After all, it’s enemy territory, especially in a derby.