It is hardly a cue to get the bunting out, but the trip to Firhill tomorrow night could be significant on two fronts. A four-goal victory – however, unlikely – would allow Rangers the rare experience of topping the Premiership, however short their stay would probably be. Any sort of win, meanwhile, would allow Caixinha to string together three consecutive victories for the first time across his six months in charge.
The sense of optimism over where Rangers are heading that has been prompted by the successes over Ross County and Dundee in recent weeks has been surprisingly strong.
There is no question that Caixinha’s recast side is beginning to gel with a raft of his nine summer signings now starting to make notable contributions. Columbian Alfredo Morelos is proving a potent goal source with seven goals, while such as Daniel Candeias, Bruno Alves, Ryan Jack and Graham Dorans all appear to be hitting their straps. Carlos Pena, the Mexican whose assimilation has been notably slower than a number of other close-season arrivals, even got in on the act in last week’s 4-1 cruise at home to Neil McCann’s side with a first goal for the club.
Caixinha, then, is bonding players from Scotland, Portugal, Central and South America and doing so with familial-style tender care. Certainly, he will work with players on the “specific physicality of the position” they are “playing on the pitch” and that may involve video analysis. Other times, though, shooting the breeze might be the way to make them feel good about themselves.
“What does a player need to keep on a good moment? Is it for me to spend more time one-on-one with him, talking about everything except football? Maybe they need that sometime,” he said.
“Above the football player, you have a man. A social being, a human being, and he needs to be treated like that. If I don’t get this sort of relationship, then, maybe, the relationship is going to just be a professional relationship and I don’t want that to happen. I want them to be close to me, the way I am close to them.
“For example, when I am having an interview process with them, and I know that some of their sons or daughters are sick, I follow it up, the day after I say to them, ‘your son is better?’ Or, maybe, they have some sort of investment, a new house or they are building a new house, I follow the process. They are really my sons, and I spend more time with them than my real blood sons. That is the reality. I spend much more time here as a family than I do with my actual family. So that is the way we have to behave.
“It is important for everyone. I just need to treat them with equity. Each one wants different things, but the treatment they expect from me has to be the same. Have no difference between a younger one, an older one, the one who plays more, the one who plays less, the one who scores more goals, the one who doesn’t score more goals. I need them to be equal to all.”
The fact all games are equal to Caixinha means he didn’t even watch Celtic’s Champions League mauling the other night ahead of hosting the Scottish champions a week on Saturday.
“Yesterday I watched Sporting Lisbon against Olympiakos,” he said. Scouting Celtic will only begin, he maintained, after Rangers return to Firhill on Tuesday for a League Cup quarter-final. He refuses to see the three games his side face in nine days against Glasgow opponents as a juncture of the season that could have a profound impact on it.
On accepting the fixture list suggests an important week-and-a-bit lies ahead, Caixinha said: ‘I cannot tell you that. It is one at a time. Period.”
And no pressure at any time? “If we are really convinced about the process, we don’t feel pressure.”