Just seven games into his tenure as Rangers manager, Pedro Caixinha already finds himself under intense scrutiny from many of the club’s supporters.
Being outclassed twice in the space of a week by Celtic has ensured there will no extended honeymoon period at Ibrox for the previously unheralded Portuguese coach.
But former Rangers captain Terry Butcher believes the spotlight in any inquest into the current predicament of the club should be shone in the boardroom rather than the technical area.
“The biggest question the Rangers fans will be asking is how much money he (Caixinha) is going to get in the summer,” Butcher told The Scotsman. “Most of the players there just now are still under contract beyond the summer, so it’s uncertain how much he is going to be able to do in terms of reshaping the squad, which is the key to how soon and by how much he might be able to close the gap on Celtic.
“The bulk of the squad, theoretically, are still going to be there next season which makes it even harder. He has to earn his reputation here and the only way he can do that is by either bringing in good players or improving the current squad well beyond what they are showing now. That is going to be very difficult if he doesn’t get the funds. It’s all about the money he receives in the summer, the war chest that chairman Dave King has promised before.
“The ball is in the board’s court right now. The manager can’t plan for improvement without a budget which gives him a chance. To stop Celtic dominating so much again and maybe winning another treble next season, he will need at least five signings which increase the standard of play at Rangers. He needs that just to have a go at Celtic, never mind beat them which looks impossible at the moment.
“I think Caixinha is well capable of doing a good job at Rangers. He has gone very much into the unknown in his previous jobs, whether it was in Mexico or Qatar. He seems to have adapted very well wherever he has been. He will know now, after the two defeats against Celtic, just what is required from his team and from the board.
“He has shown in the past he is a quick learner and knows what he wants. He has already tried to introduce younger players and change things round a bit tactically. The more the manager works with the squad, the better they will be.
“But you can’t find quality from nowhere. That’s why this summer is such a key one for Rangers. They’ve got to add quality and also a bit of spice for the fans. Look at Celtic, getting players like Scott Sinclair and Patrick Roberts who can win games on their own. Rangers are just treading water at the moment, while Celtic seem to be cruising far ahead.”
Back in 1986, Rangers were able to operate at the premium end of the transfer market when they signed players of Butcher’s stature at the start of a transformative era at Ibrox. The former England captain knows that it is Celtic who now hold all the cards in terms of resources and allure.
“If you are a player in England right now, thinking of moving, then you would look at Celtic and say ‘Yeah, I really fancy that’,” he added. “That’s because of the manager, because of the fans, because of the history, because of the way the team is playing and because of the success they are having, especially in terms of getting into the Champions League.
“Rangers doesn’t hold that same appeal. It still has fantastic tradition, great history and a huge support – but the standard on the pitch at the moment would not appeal to top players.
“It’s been a remarkable season for Celtic and it is now going to take a lot of work and effort by Rangers to get anywhere near them in the next few years. That will especially be the case if Brendan Rodgers stays around, because he will demand more from the Celtic board to keep improving the club. There is no reason why they can’t qualify for the Champions League group stage again, which is only going to further increase the financial advantage they have over Rangers.
“None of the Celtic or Rangers teams from the past, who won nine in a row or dominated other periods with runs of successive title wins, did it under the current circumstances. Rangers are having to come back from the abyss. A lot of people got carried away talking about stopping Celtic winning the treble this season and there’s a lot of talk about stopping them winning ten in a row, which might not happen.
“Rangers have to look even longer term. That might hurt a few people but if you are going to build the club up strongly and properly, there has to be a time factor. It’s clearly exasperating for Rangers fans to be back in the Premiership and find their team so far behind Celtic. But I think it was pie in the sky to think they could challenge Celtic for the title this season, rather than realistic hope. Rangers have done okay in terms of stability but it’s about what they do in the summer that will decide whether they can now kick on.”
Despite the disparity between the teams, so startlingly evident in Celtic’s record 5-1 win at Ibrox on Saturday, Butcher dismisses suggestions the Old Firm rivalry could lose its commercial attraction.
“I don’t think there is any chance of the fixture losing its appeal to Sky or anything like that,” he said. “It’s still up there as one of the biggest games in world football, even though Rangers are struggling. There is still a great fascination for the Old Firm games. Sky, BT Sport and all the sponsors of Scottish football would love to see Rangers back to where they once were. But it’s still a great fixture and you never know in a one-off game where it might go.
“There will continue to be great interest in whether Rangers can resurrect their former glories in terms of the rivalry, if you like, although that does look to be a long way away at the moment.”