With Pedro Caixinha having departed Rangers after just seven months, Patrick McPartlin looks back at where it all went wrong for the Portuguese manager
Old Firm tactics
Pedro Caixinha took the reins at Ibrox ahead of a clash with Celtic, but chose to let interim manager Graeme Murty continue to take charge of the team as Rangers grabbed an unlikely draw with Brendan Rodgers’ side. Granted But Caixinha endured a forgettable three matches against Celtic, losing all three, scoring just once and shipping nine goals in the process, including five in one game - the Ibrox side’s heaviest home defeat at the hands of their rivals.
But his tactics left a lot to be desired. Half time changes were made, as if he had picked the wrong team. James Tavernier, highlighted under Mark Warburton as an impressive attacking full back needing to work on his defensive duties, continued to leave Rangers short at the back, being caught out of position for the second goal. At times it looked as if Caixinha lacked the players to suit his preferred tactics and system.
When Rangers lost 2-0 to Celtic earlier this season, the problems were still there. The players were different but Rangers suffered the same outcome.
It had been suggested that, under Ian Cathro, some Hearts players hadn’t fully understood the magnitude of the Edinburgh derby. It now looks increasingly like the same thing happened at Ibrox under Caixinha.
Shouting at fans from a hedge in Luxembourg
Rangers’ meek exit from the Europa League at the hands of the fourth-placed side from Luxembourg’s top flight was probably the nadir of Caixinha’s tenure, but a bad night was made worse when the Rangers boss was confronted by several hundred angry supporters outside the stadium.
Instead of ducking out of sight and making a swift exit, Caixinha chose to take on the furious fans.
Pictures emerged of the manager standing in the middle of a bush, jabbing his finger at the fans as he shouted back at them while an Ibrox official attempted to usher him away from the scene.
If some sections of the Rangers support hadn’t been convinced by his appointment, this stunt almost certainly made their minds up.
While the likes of Alfredo Morelos, Declan John, Daniel Candeias and arguably Bruno Alves and Ryan Jack have made their mark at Ibrox, Caixinha’s decision to ship out 11 squad members and bring in another 11 players to replace them looks slightly panicky in hindsight. Joe Garner and Martyn Waghorn were allowed to leave, and are currently starring for English Championship side Ipswich Town. Joe Dodoo, Michael O’Halloran, Harry Forrester and Matt Crooks were all sent on loan. There is little evidence so far to suggest that the likes of Carlos Pena, Graham Dorrans, Eduardo Herrera and Dalcio are an improvement on those that have left. Certainly O’Halloran’s early form for St Johnstone prompted journalists to ask Caixinha if he still had a future at Ibrox, but the answer was an emphatic ‘No’. Pena’s exact price tag is uncertain but he appears to have cost Rangers somewhere between £2.2 million and £3 million - an expensive outlay for a player still finding his feet in Scotland as we move into November. Dorrans has, at times, looked like a shadow of the player that didn’t look out of place in the English Premier League. It’s understandable that Caixinha will have wanted to bring in players he was familiar with, and players he had worked with before. But with the exception of Morelos and John - who is on loan - the jury is still out on too many of Caixinha’s signings.
Ostracising Kenny Miller
Inevitably dubbed a ‘saga’ for the length of time it ran on for, the situation with Kenny Miller is still unclear. Banished from the first team amid claims Caixinha was angry at team selections being leaked ahead of matches, Miller was ordered to train with the Under-20s - a slap in the face for the veteran striker, now in his third stint at Ibrox. The rumour mill went into overdrive. Was Miller leaking the team? Had he fallen out with Pedro? Caixinha insisted that the player was ‘one of ours’, and appeared to take umbrage at being asked to explain the situation. Miller hasn’t kicked a ball since he was dropped from the first team squad. We were told that the pair had held ‘clear the air’ talks, but days later Miller’s agent launched two thinly-veiled attacks on Caixinha, branding the treatment of Miller as disrespectful among other complaints. Less than a week ago, Caixinha again refused to discuss the matter.
His irritation showed as he told journalists at a press conference ahead of the Betfred Cup semi final clash with Motherwell that he was ‘frustrated to still be discussing’ the situation.
Days later, reports emerged that Lee Wallace and Niko Kranjcar had also been told to stay away from Ibrox. Barrie McKay, now at Nottingham Forest, and O’Halloran also fell foul of Caixinha and were banished to the kids’ squad.
The one thing all players have in common is that they are not Pedro signings. When the Miller saga first broke, some sources claimed Caixinha was angry that the British players hadn’t properly welcomed their new manager, his backroom staff or his new signings. Apart from Krancjar, all the players told to train with the development squad or stay away from Ibrox were home-based players. Caixinha’s comments on Monday - when he accused his players of embarrassing him, the fans and Rangers - segued into an astonishing attack on the Scottish game in which he took aim at the playing style, the calibre of Scottish players, the state of the national team and the performances of Scottish club sides in Europe.
At the time it was brushed off as frustration. But it may have been a hint that Caixinha had given up in his struggle to get to grips with the Scottish game.