The whole “welcome to hell” branding became a football trope for any foreign venture to a frenzied environment. As he has often throughout his four weeks in charge, yesterday Pedro Caixinha brought his own twist to playing an away game packed with animus.
The Portuguese man of war told broadcast media that a trip to Pittodrie for Rangers had been likened to “hell”, and he was a foreign adventurer that welcomed hell in the football domain.
“Football is about challenges,” he said. “The history of football started with two cities fighting until they take the ball from one specific place and you can score one goal. Those moments were really violent and that’s the nature of football. We need to be clever, have the right attitude and approach and grow with that old-style environment.”
By the time he sat down with those of us in the print media, Caixinha was willing to plunge himself into the seventh circle of hell. In a discussion about hostility that has long been a feature of this fixture, he was asked about his earlier “hell” description.
“Maybe hell is a strong word. We came from hell to hostile and now we are finished with a challenge. That is the reason you do this separately, to take one word from there, another from here and maybe another. But I respect that. If you want to put it on the front page, for me it is fantastic. The more hostile or challenging the environment, we are already expecting that.
“Lee [McCulloch, at Kilmarnock on Wednesday] told me that. He told me Rangers going to play Aberdeen is always a tough game. Jim [Bell] our kit man told me the same.
“So I prepare for it, I love it. I love it to be under those conditions. I was missing playing and coaching under those conditions. The players will love it as well.”
Caixinha readily acknowledges his latin temperament, “I’m a passionate guy; I’m not a perfect one,” he said of being sent to the stands in pressure games in Mexico. Refreshingly, the 46-year-old did not seek to justify his use of emotive, even bellicose, language when asked to consider the tendency to exaggerate in football at a time of real war horrors. He offered a comment to suggest that not only his lexicon required to be understood in a game context.
“Football is so passionate that it moves everything, sometimes too much that we need to extrapolate everything,” he said. “That is your job, not mine. You do what you need to do and pass what you need to pass. I just try to be polite and correct and take the consequences when I speak something that I don’t need to speak.”
Caixinha understands the consequences of not winning tomorrow. If Rangers are not within nine points of Derek McInnes’ men after the teams’ Pittodrie pair-up, then he accepts there will be no possibility of dislodging them from second place.
If the Rangers manager concludes a nine-day, three-game period without a solitary win, they will have demonstrated a complete inability to be competitive with Aberdeen, never mind the Celtic team they were supposed to have made their way into the Premiership to challenge.
Rangers chairman Dave King said the other week his club should have been placed halfway between Celtic and Aberdeen this season after the recrutiment drive Mark Warburton undertook following promotion.
Caixinha said he had been told the same thing by King and “totally agreed, owing to the history and tradition of this club” and the summer investment. “But, in football, there are sometimes things you can’t control.”