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Reflecting on Pedro Caixinha’s turbulent 229-day reign in charge of Rangers

Martyn Cooke

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The sacking of Pedro Caixinha last week will have come as little surprise to those that follow the ebb and flow of Scottish football, but his departure further signals the growing chasm that currently exists between Rangers and their Old Firm rivals Celtic.

Whilst Celtic have flourished under the stability and leadership provided by Brendan Rodgers, who has successfully rebuilt his reputation since moving north of the border, Rangers continue to be undermined by uncertainty, instability and, in Caixinha’s case, just rank bad managerial appointments.

On the same weekend that Celtic equaled their own one hundred year record of going 62 domestic fixtures unbeaten, Graeme Murty once again found himself filling in a caretaker manager for Rangers, just as he did prior to Caixinha’s appointment in March.

The different atmospheres that surround the two clubs could not be further apart.

A stab in the dark rather than a well-calculated move

When Rangers announced the appointment of Pedro Caixinha in March it came as something of a surprise and raised plenty of eyebrows around Ibrox.

The 46-year-old did not possess an impressive track record having previously worked for clubs in Qatar, Mexico and Portugal without achieving any accomplishments worthy of note. At the time his appointment appeared to be more of a stab in the dark than a well-calculated move and, on reflection, the most remarkable thing was that he was ever handed the job in the first place.

Caixinha oversaw a turbulent seven months at Ibrox that was characterised by inconsistency, tactical naivety, and regular public outbursts before a draw against Kilmarnock resulted in his dismissal. His 229-day reign makes him the shortest serving manager in the club’s history and he will be remembered more for his words off the pitch than the performance of his side on it.

The problem for Caixinha was that although he could talk a good game he never fully understood what it took to win matches in the physical, high-intensity environment of the Scottish Premier League.  The fact that Ranger failed to win three successive games under his stewardship emphasizes his failure to build a team capable of consistently producing positive results.

Glasgow Rangers were left stumbling along for seven months without any real sense of direction or vision, all the while watching their Old Firm rivals complete a domestic treble that saw them go the entire campaign unbeaten. Caixinha’s side were defensively fragile and attacked with little purpose, aggression or desire whilst the team often mirrored the lack of discipline that the manager demonstrated himself.

The 46-year-old was allowed to bring in 11 new players during the summer but very few have acclimatised or made the definitive impact that was expected whilst he was quick to dismiss established existing first-team players whose faces did not fit.

There was an intense irony at the weekend when Kenny Miller, who had been frozen out by Caixinha, scored twice and provided an assist after he was recalled to the starting eleven by interim manager Graeme Murty. Under their Portuguese manager, the club looked more like a collection of individuals than a united team.

The lasting memory for many Rangers supporters of Caixinha’s reign was the Europa League qualifying defeat against Luxembourg minnows Progres Niederkorn. The loss, against what was effectively a team of part-time players, will go down as one of the worst results in the history of Scottish football and was rounded off by a bizarre after-match exchange when Caixinha was pictured standing in a bush arguing with supporters.

When people look back on his short-lived spell in charge of Rangers, they will simply scratch their heads and wonder how a man of his, unimpressive, calibre ended up with the job in the first place.

A poisoned chalice?

It is worth noting that the managerial hot-seat at Glasgow Rangers is not some sort of poisoned chalice. The club remains one of the two largest and most influential institutions in Scottish football and the history, heritage and impressive fan-base will ensure that the next manager has a foundation on which to build.

Rangers may have fallen significantly behind their Old Firm rivals but the environment of Scottish football is such that clubs can make quick progress both on and off the field, as characterised by the early season performances of Motherwell so far this campaign.

The club still retains the fundamentals to at least offer a challenge for Silverware and, with the right appointment, can begin the process of building a team that is capable of closing the gulf in class between them and their Old Firm rival.

The appointment of Pedro Caixinha was a poorly evaluated gamble at best or negligence at worst, but the club must now move forward and ensure that their next manager is the right one. What Rangers need now is a man who can provide stability and begin to restore a sense of pride around Ibrox.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

Exclusives

Greg Docherty – Realising a childhood dream with Rangers FC

After completing his dream move to Rangers, midfielder Greg Docherty sat down with The Boot Room to look back at his career to date and the excitement of his time ahead at Ibrox.

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Photo: Rangers Football Club

Last Saturday, Greg Docherty fulfilled a childhood dream by stepping out at Ibrox.

But this time, unlike his four previous visits to the home of Rangers Football Club, he was stepping out of the tunnel and onto the pitch as a home player following his January switch over to Glasgow.

Docherty’s home debut might not have gone exactly to plan – with Rangers falling to a narrow loss against Hibernian – but nevertheless, it was an afternoon that he is unlikely to forget anytime soon.

His move from Hamilton Academical, a Scottish Premiership side where he had plied his trade since joining their youth academy as nothing more than a nine-year-old with dreams, was perhaps as anticipated as it was justified considering his head-turning performances during the past 18 months.

For lifelong Rangers supporter Docherty it’s been a whirlwind start to 2018, and talking to The Boot Room in an exclusive interview he recounted the moment he discovered the transfer was in motion.

“Believe it or not I was actually on my way to the Hamilton game against Hearts [on January 24] and I received a phone call to say that the deal had been done and that I was now a Rangers player.

“It was all a bit mad. I still wasn’t sure if I was going to be playing that night but after the phone call I quickly had a chat with […] who said obviously you won’t play because we’ve signed all of the forms, and it’s up to Rangers now to do their stuff.”

The confirmation of a completed deal before the end of the transfer window would have come almost as a relief for the 21-year-old, who admitted that he first heard of Rangers’ interest courtesy of speculation across social media platforms.

“To be honest that’s where you first find out most of it, because social media is so popular these days for breaking news. You hear something then ask around a bit to see if it’s true or not but it’s quite funny how you read news about yourself.”

Fortunately for Docherty this proved to be one social media rumour that came to fruition, and little more than three days after being officially announced as a Rangers player he was taking his place in caretaker manager Graeme Murty’s squad, coming off the bench in the 74th minute in a 2-1 win at Ross County.

A winning start in a Gers shirt was undeniably the perfect way for Docherty to settle any lingering nerves following his well-documented winter transfer, and reflecting on his debut he praised the supporters who immediately back him that night.

“It was special. The reaction I got from the crowd was great – it was an incredible following considering the distance from Glasgow – and even when I was warming up the whole stand and a half that Rangers had been allocated were clapping and saying my name.

“It’s something I have dreamt of for a long time and for that to actually happen was incredible.”

But when one door opens, another one has to close, and Docherty’s move to Rangers signalled the end of his 14-year spell at Hamilton.

The Scotland Under-21 international spent the young days of his career working through the ranks at Hamilton’s esteemed academy – an academy that has seen the likes of James McCarthy and James McArthur graduate and switch to the Premier League – before making his first-team bow at just 17.

After getting a feel for first-team football in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, Docherty fully broke into the Hamilton side a year later and it’s fair to say that, from that moment, he never looked back.

He became a stalwart in the Accies’ midfield, going on to make over 100 appearances for them across all competitions, and he insisted that his decision to leave the Club was one that was ultimately made with a heavy heart.

“[I’ll miss] the people. I made a lot of close friends – some of my best friends are still there – and I’ll miss seeing them every day. It was a great place to be, a great place to work, and a great place to play football.

It was a joy for me, it was never a chore or anything like that, and I enjoyed every minute. It gave me a chance. I’ll just miss being in and around the dressing room, because it was a great dressing room, but it was time to move on and push on to the next challenge.”

There’s little doubt that Docherty will always be held in high regard by the home supporters for his efforts during his tenure at the Club, not least for his crucial goal that helped Hamilton edge past Dundee United in the two-legged Scottish Premiership relegation play-off in 2017.

It’s a moment that Docherty himself looks back on with fond memories, too.

“Scoring the goal to keep them in the league, that was it for me.

“Hamilton had shown a lot of faith in me through the years so for me to repay them with that goal to keep them in the league, that was special. Football’s funny sometimes with how it works and for me to score the goal after coming through the youth system was nice for Hamilton.”

It won’t be long before he’s back in familiar territory though, as Docherty and Rangers travel to New Douglas Park on February 18 in a match that’ll be rife with emotion for the academy product.

Football is often known to be an ironic sport at times, and there’s a certain amount of irony about the fact that the youngster from Milngavie all-but sealed the deal when playing against Rangers for Hamilton earlier in the Premiership season.

It was in Hamilton’s 2-0 win at Ibrox back in November – a match that gave the Accies their first victory at Rangers since 1926 – where the youngster excelled, earning an assist and generally catching the eye with a powerful midfield display, and it’s this that could have swayed the board of directors at Rangers into signing on the dotted line.

“In a way I hope so. I wanted to play well because it was against the team I support – it’s funny like that – but I wanted to prove that if I was to play for Rangers then I’d be more then capable.

“After that game I received a lot of nice messages from the fans congratulating me so I knew right away that they had taken to me a little bit. Then once the news came in that Rangers were interested in me the amount of support I received was incredible, and that was another factor in me signing.”

For now, though, Docherty’s time at New Douglas Park is a chapter of the past, and his firm focus remains on pastures new at Rangers – and more predominantly, getting them back to the very top.

Their return to the summit of Scottish football last season after four years of climbing back up the ladder has seen the club back where it belongs, and considering the plight that they have been recovering from since entering into administration in 2012, a third-place finish was an impressive feat on their return to Premiership football last season.

And whilst it seems that Celtic are once again set to reign supreme come the end of the 2017-18 campaign, Docherty is confident that Rangers will be right back on their heels again before too long.

At just 21 years of age Docherty has arguably already reached the pinnacle of the Scottish game by virtue of playing for one of the two notorious Glaswegian giants, and he admitted that he could already see himself spending the majority of his footballing career at Ibrox, aiding the club’s revival.

“You never know. If that was to be the case then I wouldn’t be disheartened by that at all.

“Rangers need to get back to the top, and one of my aims is to get them back there and competing at the highest level – and I’m sure the Rangers fans do too. There’s every chance of that happening over the next few years, I don’t see why not, you’ve just got to believe.

“If I was to stay here for the rest of my career then that would be brilliant but you never know in football and you want to play at the highest level possible.”

After achieving his dream move by the time he even turns 22 it’s clear to see that there’s a long and successful career there for the taking should Docherty avoid serious injury, and there is already growing talks that he could be in contention for a berth in the Scotland squad as the year progresses.

It is a testing time for the Scotland national squad at present, currently without a manager and with friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary looming in March, but with three Under-21 caps to his name – and with a big move under his belt – Docherty is well-placed to push for a first senior call-up.

Asked about his national team aspirations, Docherty replied:

“Absolutely, I don’t see why not.

“Obviously I’ll take each game as they come but I think that if I start off playing well for Rangers I can’t see why I can’t push into the international team. I’ve already completed one of my targets to get signed by Rangers – but first and foremost I need to establish myself in the Rangers team.”

And this could begin with a first start in a Rangers jersey when they travel to Scottish League One outfit Ayr United in the fifth-round of the Scottish Cup on Sunday, with a quarter-final spot at stake.

It would be a full debut that would no doubt be received well by Rangers fans if social media talk is anything to go by, with Gers supporters urging their new signing to be given the chance to impress in midfield.

If anything, that shows just how highly-rated Docherty is – he’s something of a hot commodity right now.

But he insisted that he’s aware of the competition for places and strength in depth at Ibrox, adding that he feels he is at the right club in order to develop as a young footballer.

“I feel like I need to score more goals, and I need to contribute more. I need to be a more all-round box-to-box midfielder. I think I’ve got the fitness and the strength to do it but I just need to be a bit more aware when I’m on the ball and speed up the play.

“I think that’ll come at Rangers though and I think that’s something they are good at – they’re a very fast-flowing team – and that’s why I’m excited to be playing with them and see what it’s like to play in a game with such high intensity.

“It’s always been difficult to play against Rangers. The movement is always good and they’re always very switched on with what they do – that was another factor in joining, as I wanted to be a part of that. They’re a great side that are building momentum at the moment.”

It is this concept of building momentum that couldn’t be truer on the blue side of Glasgow at this moment in time, with their current position a far cry from the desperate predicament of late 2012.

With Docherty and fellow midfielder Sean Goss arriving in January there’s real potential for a partnership to be grown – one that could be the backbone of this Rangers side for years to come.

The signs are good for the Gers as they strive to compete for a 54th league title, combining energy and youth with some seasoned heads that lends itself to some pleasing football.

As for the immediate future, it may just take another few games for the enormity of the move to fully sink in for boyhood fan Docherty, but it is a scenario that just goes to prove the old-school cliché that dreams can be achieved if you are prepared to work hard enough for them.

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Celtic

Rangers no longer offer a challenge as Celtic’s Old Firm dominance continued at the weekend

Martyn Cooke

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There was once a time when playing in an Old Firm derby at Ibrox whilst wearing the green and white hoops of Celtic was a daunting prospect.

However, after Saturday’s contest we can safely assume that this is no longer the case.

The first Old Firm derby of the new campaign confirmed two things; first, that Rangers have failed to make up any ground over their neighbours despite an active summer in the transfer market and, second, that Celtic’s dominance over Scottish football shows absolutely no signs of being halted any time soon. It also demonstrated that Brandan Rodgers’ side no longer have any real reason to fear or be concerned with the prospect of a short trip across Glasgow to Ibrox.

In reality Celtic brushed aside Rangers with relative ease on Saturday, much in the same way that they have despatched each and every team that they have met in domestic competitions over the previous fourteen months. The Hoops are now unbeaten in 57 domestic games and the green and white juggernaut will take some stopping – if it can be stopped at all.

The atmosphere at Ibrox was hostile, as it will always be when the neighbours come to town, but there was an obvious gulf in quality and class between the two teams on display. Celtic applied themselves with a confidence and assertiveness that their unbeaten record deserves and they played as if it was a home match. The Hoops rarely looked stressed or stretched and Rangers’ impotence is demonstrated by the statistics – they managed just one shot on target and one corner throughout the ninety minutes.

Pedro Caixinha’s side were resilient and worked tirelessly but simply lacked the quality to truly trouble the visitors. Rangers actually spent more money than their rivals during the summer but there is nothing to suggest that this has facilitated any substantial improvement or progress when compared to the previous season. They are some way from closing the gulf in class.

This fact was definitively highlighted by the standard of player that Brendan Rodgers named among the substitutes for Saturday. Callum McGregor, James Forrest, Moussa Dembele and Jonny Hayes all occupied the Celtic bench at Ibrox and an argument could be made that all four are superior to any player in the current Rangers squad. In contrast, injuries had exposed the hosts lack of strength in depth and 19-year-old central defender Ross McCrorie was thrown in very much at the deep end for his first competitive start.

Celtic have already opened up a clear five point lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League and their dominance is decisive. Meanwhile Rangers already trail their neighbours by eight points and you sense that the pressure is already starting to build around Caixinha.

There was once a time when Ibrox was a place to fear for Celtic, yet those days appear to be long gone and, armed with the annual financial windfall that participation in the Champions League brings, you sense that The Hoops will hold power and sway over Rangers and Scottish football for a long time to come.

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Rangers

Is Hearts winger Jamie Walker set for a Rangers move after his opening day omission?

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Jamie Walker

Jamie Walker has been dropped from Hearts’ squad ahead of their Scottish Premiership opener versus Celtic, the Scottish Sun report.

The club’s interim boss, Jon Daly, says the wingers’ head has been turned as the midfielder tries to force through a move to Rangers.

The 24-year-old attacker, who still has one year left on his current contract, has been the subject of multiple failed bids by the Gers, including one believed to be in the region of £600,000, BBC Sport reports.

However, Tynecastle chiefs are demanding £1 million for the winger, according to the Scotsman.

Although the Gers are not prepared to pay such a massive sum, they haven’t given up hope as Director of Football, Craig Levein, told BBC Sport that Walker wants to leave the Jambos.

According to the Daily Record, Cathro has blamed the amount of attention and speculation surrounding Walker’s future for his drop in focus. He said:“It’s been quite a difficult situation for him, which I think at first, he’s managed to deal with well and of course we’ll support him.

“I love his talent, I love the way that he plays but I would say just now it’s just starting to affect his focus and his performance levels with us a little bit.”

Is the Edinburgh winger set for a Rangers move?

Last season, Walker was a regular first team player for Hearts, making 39 appearances and scoring a total of 15 goals.

He came up big for his side in Robbie Neilson’s last game in charge in the club’s Scottish Premiership encounter with Rangers, most notably firing in a viscous cross for Robbie Muirhead, who made the score 2-0.

Walker was one of Heart’s standouts in pre-season and played at the top of his game in Hearts’ matches against Newcastle United and Linfield. He scored one of the goals in their 4-1 victory over the latter and netted the only goal in their 2-1 defeat to the former, in which he was named man-of-the-match for his side.

After the Newcastle defeat, fellow teammate Don Cowie spoke of Walkers skill to the Daily Record“The only thing that surprises me is there only seems to be one team that want him.

“You see the end product, the goals, the technique. There aren’t many players like him, especially in Scotland.”

However, Walker is a lifelong Rangers fan, which may impact his decision to leave for the Glasgow team.

Kevin Kyle, who has watched Walker come up through the ranks at Hearts and made the same switch from the Jambos to the Gers, believes part of his final decision will come down to wanting to play for his “boyhood heroes.” He told the Scottish Sun: “I would love to see him stay at Hearts, it is a good club.

“But I know that he is a boyhood Rangers fan and he attends Rangers games when he gets the opportunity so I would presume it is a lifelong ambition for Jamie to play for Rangers. I am sure he will want that deal to happen and if it does then good luck to him.”

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