Rangers flatter to deceive in victory over Hearts

The fact Rangers could prevail'¨over Hearts at the weekend might suggest that Pedro '¨Caixinha has more to work with for next season than '¨his Tynecastle counterpart Ian Cathro. To assess the '¨cohesion and character across both sides might suggest '¨otherwise.

Barrie McKay drills the ball into the net to give Rangers a 2-1 win. Picture: SNS.

The losers, and their universally maligned coach, were rightly lauded more for their efforts. Down to ten men for more than an hour because Prince Buaben earned himself a needless straight red card by denying Josh Windass a goal­scoring opportunity with a tug, Cathro cleverly switched to a back three at the interval and his team were thereafter in the ascendancy.

He could not legislate for debutant goalkeeper Viktor Noring making an almighty hash of dealing with a cross to allow Barrie McKay to score. That 53rd-minute winner, only seconds after Esmael Goncalves had plundered an equaliser for Hearts, came at a time when only a seventh 
victory in 24 games seemed in the frame for the visitors.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

It wasn’t that Rangers, firmly in control for long spells of the opening period following Joe Garner’s sixth-minute opener, merely looked pedestrian as the encounter wore on. They appeared distracted, and that is maybe to be expected, with Caixinha making plain this Ibrox side has run its course and will be gutted once their Premiership programme is completed with the midweek visit by Aberdeen and Sunday’s trip to St Johnstone.

Clint Hill later confirmed what we already knew as a result of “leaks” lambasted by the Portuguese coach in that he was leaving, but the thought that coloured a win which ensured third place for Rangers was how many of Saturday’s squad might join him.

With talk of all manner of Caixinha targets arriving from his previous stop-offs in Qatar and Mexico, and the list yesterday swelled by the name of Bruno Alves, it is clear that the club’s manager of eight weeks wants to take a fish slice to the current squad.

Teenage midfielder Jamie Barjonas, pictured, speculated following a home debut as a late substitute that he might be forced to drop down to the under-20s next season, but he could instead enjoy a promotion.

McKay has stated he is waiting for an improved contract that hasn’t come, and it is questionable whether Caixinha cares to offer one. With Andy Halliday relegated to the bench and others such as Danny Wilson and Jason Holt having failed to impress of late, elements of the Scottish contingent at Ibrox could be squeezed, a week after 15-year-old Billy Gilmour was lost to Chelsea. With Philippe Senderos and loanees Emerson Hyndman and Jon Toral also having no part to play next season, there is no special purge on native talent.

Indeed, the rebuilding started, in some ways, with a new deal for 37-year-old Kenny Miller. That is a move it can be taken as read the 18-year-old Barjonas would have considered imperative.

The Cumbernauld youngster, who has Lithuanian grandparentage, presents Miller as a man who embodies the Rangers ideals aspired to by those in the under-20s – a group that Barjonas believes have been given a fillip by the arrival of Caixinha. Miller also represents a crucial link in the development chain across the Ibrox set-up for a player clearly enthralled by the veteran.

“Kenny Miller has been a big influence on me,” added Barjonas. “He comes in on his days off, he helps out at training with the under-20s and comes to our games too. If you ever need his advice he’ll sit you down and talk for hours if you need. Not every senior player would do that so he has been a great role model for me and a lot of the other under-20 players. He’s a great athlete, looks after himself and is such a big influence on us all. He always tells us to enjoy our football, that’s all you can do really.”

It emerged at the weekend that Rangers have withdrawn their under-20s from the development league next season and will arrange a series of friendlies against leading European clubs in the hope of better preparing home-grown products for the level the club want them to reach. Barjonas believes that, with his readiness to promote from within the ranks as evidenced by the recent exposure given to Myles Beerman, Caixinha has already set about providing young players at Rangers with a more obvious route to the first team than existed under Mark Warburton.

“When Myles got into the first team it gave every single player in the under-20s such a massive lift,” the midfielder said.

“Training lifted, the quality
and the tempo lifted too. There is that clear pathway for us now. We know if we work hard and we show our quality then we will make it. A lot more people are around the under-20s now.”

A lot more is needed to revive Rangers than a crop of good young players. Caixinha knows that, and also that he needs to make a little go an awful long way.