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.