Rangers have gone through a period of unprecedented, unrelenting chaos over the past few years since Craig Whyte entered their lives. From administration and liquidation to the Peterhead away game, Ally McCoist’s gardening leave and Graeme Murty’s head stand.
But it seems as though things are now beginning to look up for the Gers after they turned in a performance at Celtic Park on Sunday that has enhanced their self-respect and left them with their heads held high.
With their new manager Pedro Caixinha watching Murty’s final game from the stand as he ended his month-long tenure as caretaker with a credible 1-1 draw against Celtic, there is the new possibility that Rangers might be ready to be taken seriously again.
But Caixinha has a massive job on his hands overhauling the current squad.
The erudite 46-year-old confidently walked into the Rangers scene full of smart ideas and a passion for the club that Rangers hasn’t seen for a while. But he also proved that he might be prone to an exaggerated statement or two, saying:
“This is the squad we have for now and we really trust the players we have right now. For us, this is the best squad in Scotland.”
But when he was asked, with raised eyebrows and heckles, to explain his claims, Caixinha’s response had some sound logic as well as sounding more measured and considered. He said:
“I always believe in the players I work with. If I don’t believe in my players, do you think they are going to believe in me?”
He is aware that Rangers’ confidence is fragile at best, and he understands that they need a morale and confidence boost to believe they can be a better team than they currently are – so isn’t he already doing right by them?
Although the Portuguese coach has only just been unveiled at Ibrox a matter of days ago, he must already be trying to work out possible faces he might want to bring in, as well as those who he might consider showing the door.
Goalkeeper Wes Foderingham, for instance, might be a player he intends to keep. The 26-year-old currently has two years left on his contract and being a young age for a keeper as well as a solid performer for Rangers, he could play a big part in Caixinha’s side.
Meanwhile, defender Philippe Senderos might be one to let go. Mark Warburton’s panic buy last summer has failed to deliver spectacularly, making only four appearances all in and was sent off in his first outing against Celtic for a rash handball. His deal runs out in the summer.
Caixinha will need to make these decisions because he will meet Brendan Rodgers’ side at Hampden in just over a month’s time for the Scottish Cup semi-final.
Looking at Sunday’s game, Caixinha’s clearest takeaway would be that Rangers are a team very much capable of defensive discipline. They also managed to reduce the quality of Celtic’s shots, stopping them from scoring within the “danger zone” (where the ball will mostly find the back of the net) and rather trying an average shot.
Caixinha is also likely to be impressed by centre-back Danny Wilson’s performance. The 25-year-old put in a strong display against the free-scoring Moussa Dembele, ensuring that the young striker drew his first blank this season. Of their 13 duels, Dembele only won three of them.
Things appear to be looking up for the Gers and although they were unable to beat their fierce rivals last weekend, thus preserving their undefeated record, Caixinha could have something up his sleeve for the next time they meet.