My Rangers are a cut above the rest, insists Caixinha
Defiant Pedro Caixinha has insisted he is managing the best squad in Scotland even though Rangers finished 39 points behind runaway leaders Celtic last season and then crashed to a humiliating Europa League loss to Luxembourg minnows Progres Niederkorn.
The new Scottish Premiership season kicks off this weekend and ahead of the Gers' trip to Motherwell on Sunday, the Ibrox chief is talking a good game.
Portuguese coach Caixinha, who said he had inherited the strongest group of players in the country back in March, is still backing his men to topple their Old Firm rivals.
"I keep my word," said Caixinha.
"I always think that when I'm working at a club my players are the best, my squad is the best and my club is the best.
"I need to represent it like that and I need to spread that feeling from bottom to top and top to bottom.
"If I don't think like that representing Rangers today, then I'm a guy just sitting in my chair letting time pass me by."
Gers looked as underdone as ever as they tumbled out of the Europa League to their part-time opponents last month.
Caixinha admitted that shock defeat hurt his squad deeply.
But the former Santos Laguna coach believes last week’s friendly draw with Marseille and warm-up victories over Watford and Sheffield Wednesday are clear signs the shoots of recovery are beginning to sprout.
Now he is targeting a full bloom when the Light Blues open their Ladbrokes Premiership campaign.
He said: “This is the best moment ever since I arrived. That shows the improvement and how pleased I am with the boys.
“The team that you may call the first XI has only been together for three weeks so I have to be happy.
“In the last two and a half weeks we’ve had the best moments since I arrived as a squad, as a team and as a working group. I know how massive and deep this club is. We know what it means to represent Rangers. Winning is the only option.”
Caixinha refused to discuss whether Jamie Walker would play a part in that future after claims from Hearts interim boss Jon Daly that the continued transfer speculation surrounding the winger was beginning to affect his mental state.
But he did reveal forward Harry Forrester’s days at Ibrox are numbered.
Rob Kiernan has completed a switch to Southend United for an undisclosed fee and Caixinha says Forrester is also on his way out. “They are not with us since the very beginning and they knew that from me from the end of the last season,” said Caixinha as he confirmed reports both players had been made to train with the club’s Under-20s.
“Rob’s situation is about to be solved but Harry may take a little bit longer. The processes are going on but so far as I know we are about to have an agreement with Rob.”
Meanwhile, boss Derek McInnes claimed Aberdeen fans were mistreated by stewards after the Dons exited the Europa League qualifiers with a 2-0 defeat against Apollon Limassol at the AEK Arena.
A video on social media appeared to show some visiting fans clashing with stewards in the stand after the 3-2 aggregate loss in Cyprus.
McInnes said: “I am hearing our fans got treated terribly by the stewards, steaming in with flares and tear gas and everything else.
“I didn’t get to see it but I am hearing it second hand and you saw some of the stuff that was going on, things getting thrown on to the pitch, people spitting into the dugout, flares getting thrown on — that’s when you should have seen the stewards being more visible, not treating our fans the way they did.”
The Dons’ 2-1 lead from the first leg of the third qualifying round at Pittodrie was cancelled out and more in the 17th minute when Apollon attacker Andre Schembri fired in from 14 yards.
Substitute Emilio Zelaya added a second in the 86th minute to sink the Scottish side.