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.
Daniel Candeias the Pedro Caixinha anomaly at Rangers
The Portuguese winger has been in fine form this season.
Rangers today announced that Portuguese winger Daniel Candeias has signed a new deal at Ibrox. The 30-year-old has signed a contract extension, keeping him at the club until 2020 and in doing so proves he is something of an anomaly.
The summer signing is one of the rare Pedro Caixinha signings who have proved to be a success at Ibrox.
In the summer the Portuguese manager brought in several new faces through his links with Portuguese and Mexican football. Fabio Cardoso, Bruno Alves, Eduardo Herrera, Carlos Pena and Dalcio all arrived at the club in the summer.
Not many of those recruits proved successful at Ibrox. Mexican internationals Herrera and Pena have struggled in Glasgow. Herrera struggled to find the net and whilst Pena had some good moments he was loaned to Caixinha’s new team Cruz Azul.
Cardoso looks a good talent at centre-back but has struggled to cement a regular starting place at Ibrox. Alves, an experienced Portugal international, had had his injury trouble since making the move. Winger Dalcio faced criticism after his performance v Progres Niederkorn in the Europa League humiliation. He has played just once for the club since.
Candeias on the other hand has been fantastic. He tops the assist stats in the Scottish Premiership and has built a brilliant reputation among the Rangers fans for his honest and tireless performances.
He is clearly enjoying his spell at the club as well, telling Rangers TV today:
“I am very happy here as it is like a family. Everyone has welcomed me so well and I my family are so happy with the city and the people.
“When everything is like this, it makes it so much easier.”
Winning over the Rangers fans is certainly not an easy feat. But the 30-year-old has tapped in to exactly what the Ibrox faithful expect of players at Rangers.
After Caixinha left, who was pivotal in his arrival from Benfica, Candeias did not mope but instead stood up to the challenge. Now the 30-year-old is considered one of Rangers’ best players and has himself a new deal to highlight his excellent form at Ibrox.
Candeias has proven himself the star recruit from the Caixinha connections and can hopefully continue his form now his future in Glasgow is confirmed.
Rangers should target Matty Willock if Sean Goss is off the table
the pair used to live together when at Manchester United, could Rangers bring at least one of them to Ibrox in the summer.
Rangers have been in fine form recently. The Glasgow side are pushing their Old Firm rivals Celtic in the title race for the first time since they won their way back to the top-flight of Scottish football. This weekend, when they clash in the Old Firm derby, Rangers will not be written off from the start.
One player who has been key to their success is Sean Goss. The midfielder arrived on loan from Queens Park Rangers in January. The 22-year-old has been fantastic since making the move and Rangers boss Graeme Murty has made no secret of his desire to sign him permanently.
QPR however are not set to allow Goss leave in the summer. Ian Holloway sees the former Manchester United talent as a future star at Loftus Road and has made it clear, Goss is going nowhere.
Bad news for Rangers, but perhaps they can go for his former team-mate and flat-mate instead.
Goss used to share a house with midfielder Matty Willock when the pair were at Manchester United together – as reported by the Herald.
Willock himself is still at United, but is in fact out on loan at a Scottish Premiership club. Willock has featured four times for the Perth side since ending a spell at Utrecht in Holland to make the move.
The 21-year-old has impressed at St Johnstone so far and is a very talented young midfielder. A strong and mobile player with an eye for a pass, he is similar in playing style to Goss – who has become so popular at Ibrox.
Rangers would certainly be wise to keep tabs on the form of Willock in Scottish football. If the young Manchester United midfielder can begin to put a stamp on his time north of the border than Rangers might do well bringing him to Ibrox, if his old pal is as off limits as QPR say he is.
If Graeme Murty remains, old-friend Steve Sidwell would be great Rangers addition
If Murty remains the manager at Ibrox, bringing Sidwell to Glasgow could be a great move.
Back in the 2005-06 season one team romped their way to the Championship table. That team was Reading. Managed by Steve Coppell they won the competition with an incredible and record breaking 106 points and +67 goal difference. One player in that team that Rangers fans will be more than aware of is the Berkshire side’s legendary right-back Graeme Murty.
He featured 44 times for the Royals that season and became a local hero as the captain who led Reading to such a memorable season.
Another player crucial to that Reading side was midfielder Steve Sidwell. This summer the 35-year-old is a free agent after his contract at Brighton ends and Murty should consider a reunion at Ibrox.
Murty, who has recently transformed the fortunes of Rangers, has done so with some incredibly talented young players in his team. But the side need, especially in midfield, some more experienced heads. They do not come much more experienced than Sidwell.
As well as his excellent spell at Reading the midfielder can count Chelsea, Aston Villa, Fulham and Stoke as former Premier League clubs he played for.
The veteran proved he is not past it as an integral member of the Brighton side that won promotion last season. This campaign Sidwell has spent much of his time out injured and with his contract expiring in the summer could be on his way out.
Rangers could be a perfect opportunity for the midfielder. There is certainly space for Sidwell in the Rangers side and he would be working with someone he knows extremely well in Murty.
A lot of course depends on if Murty remains, considering his caretaker deal only runs until the end of the season.
But given Rangers’ current form he is in a strong position. If he can continue to thrive with his young midfield at Ibrox until the end of the season he deserves the job. Then Murty will need some experience in Glasgow. Who better than his old friend from Reading?
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