If there was one reassurance denied to Pedro Caixinha from the very first day of his brief, ill-starred tenure at Rangers, it was that he had the confidence of all within the club. The appointment of the Portuguese coach is understood to have been backed only by certain elements of the Ibrox board – chairman and largest shareholder Dave King taking a back seat in the recruitment process – while what was demanded of the man who lasted 231 days in post also seemed clouded by personal agendas
For Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers, who expressed his sympathies for Caixinha yesterday, a unity of purpose is a must for a manager to succeed. The very unity of purpose, indeed, that the Irishman has fostered since walking through the doors at Celtic Park as an appointment universally acknowledged by all at the Scottish champions as the right one.
“I think key strategy is important. Everybody has to be aligned to the strategy you’re following,” said Rodgers.
“I think that’s important. There has to be a leadership that’s clear and that everyone is aligned to. And you can’t divert from it. That’s the simplicity of it. If it’s fragmented and people want to chase one thing, others want to do it a different way, then that’s when there is a problem. I think it has to be clear what the strategy of the club is; what the senior directors and ownership want. From that, you get the right personnel in place.”
Caixinha was never the right person but seemed a decent – if destructively off the wall – man that Rodgers was sad to see lose his job. “I feel a lot of professional empathy for Pedro,” he said. “They are big jobs, big pressures and I was disappointed for Pedro. He clearly went in with great enthusiasm for the job – and went into a big club where there is big expectancy. Clearly it hasn’t worked out for him, so I’m sad for him .
“My only worry is for Celtic. I don’t think about anything else, really. Each club will bring in the man they choose. And then it’s up to the manager to impose their ideas. I have real empathy for Pedro, like I have for all the other managers who have lost their job this season.
“I didn’t really get to know him. We met first at the under-17 game, the Celtic-Rangers game near the end of last season, when he’d just come in. After that, it’s only been when we’ve spoken after games. I think he clearly has a great enthusiasm for football. And he had a certain way in which he wanted to work.”
Seven months, and only three and a half to mould the team of new players, might hardly seem enough time for Caixinha to implement the way he wanted to work at Ibrox.
Rodgers knows from bitter experience that only results earn time after his five-month spell at Reading in 2009.
“I had 20 games. I probably shouldn’t have left Watford but I felt I was going to a club that I knew very well,” he said. “That summer, they wanted an overhaul. Because I felt I knew the club, and because Reading is a great club, my fault was that I didn’t really understand – or even ask – what the expectations were. So I think you can go in with all the best intentions. But what you learn is that you need to win games. The sack certainly promotes that idea in your mind! It’s very, very clear in modern football that you need to somehow impose your way of working as soon as you possibly can.”
Rodgers has emphatically done that to the point where today at home to Kilmarnock his team can equal a century-old British record set by Willie Maley’s Celtic team between 1915 and 1917 through remaining unbeaten across 62 consecutive domestic games.
For Nir Bitton, this opportunity arrives on the back of the best display of the 60 without loss. The auxiliary centre-back called the utterly dominant 3-0 win at Aberdeen in midweek “the complete” performance.
“It’s always good to be part of a winning team, especially if you are breaking records. But it’s not something we really think about,” said Bitton, who is hopeful of being given a first Champions League outing in his new position at home to Bayern Munich next week.
“When you give it too much thought you can lose your concentration. It’s possible we can look back on it in the future. Someone told me that this record has been there for over 100 years so you never know – maybe ours can last for another 100 years.”