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Failing to grasp life at Rangers led to downfall of Caixinha

 

By Mark Walker

When Pedro Mendes, the former Rangers midfielder tuned agent, approached the Ibrox board with a left field suggestion about how they could replace Mark Warburton with a Portuguese manager that came with a title-winning pedigree, they sensed an opportunity.

Here was a chance to prove to their fans - who had spent much of the past five years with their heads in their hands - they could pluck a rabbit from the hat that would allow them to challenge Celtic and make the board look like footballing visionaries at the same time.

But for Rangers and Pedro Caixinha, that seven-month stint has turned into a nightmare that's left them far worse off both on and off the pitch than where they were when the former Santos Laguna manager strolled into Glasgow.

Marooned in fourth place in the Scottish Premiership, hopelessly adrift by eight points of Brendan Rodgers' Invincibles at Celtic and dumped out of the Betfred Cup by a Motherwell side who have a budget a fraction of Rangers.

So how did it come to this?

Firstly, you have to wonder how much research Rangers did when they appointed Caixinha. A quick search of Google could have led them to tales of Caixinha's explosive temperament. In Central America, he regularly battled with managers, fought with opposition players, was handed fines by the Mexican FA and was a prickly customer at his Press conferences.

Any of this sound familiar to Rangers fans?

But so impressed were the panel of Rangers' decision-makers in London led by managing director Stewart Robertson, head of football administration Andrew Dickson and non-executive director Graeme Park, they ignored the other names that were touted at the time like Gary Rowett, Derek McInnes and Alex McLeish.

They even forked out around £350,000 to Qatari club, Al-Gharafa to allow him to leave early from his contract to arrive in March.

Robertson said at his unveiling: "I can't remember exactly how long into it did we start to think he was the right man, but certainly his passion came through right away. People talk about living and working in Glasgow, working at Rangers, and you need a strong character to deal with that."

Sadly for Rangers, two things quickly became clear - his passion was misplaced in the extreme and he was up against a truly exceptional Celtic team he couldn't lay a glove on.

Caixinha was allowed to stumble through his first few months - indeed there was briefly some encouragement when he led Rangers to a surprise 3-0 win at Aberdeen.

But a double-header defeat to Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final followed by their biggest ever home Old Firm defeat when they crashed to a 5-1 annihilation, which could and should have been even worse, gave a hint of what was to follow.

Add to this Aberdeen's first win at Ibrox for 26 years and it was hard for Rangers' fans to be optimistic.

However, in fairness to the Ibrox board, they backed him with cash in the summer.

An entire new team of 11 players costing the guts of £12 million were introduced to Ibrox in the summer ranging from the capture of Aberdeen captain Ryan Jack to Euro 2016 winner, veteran Portugal defender Bruno Alves hinted at a real challenge to Celtic. He used his knowledge of Mexican football too by bringing in Carlos Pena and Eduardo Herrera.

All of whom have proved to be a letdown.

A favourable Europa League draw to mark their return to Europe after five years saw the fourth best team in Luxembourg, Progres Niederkorn, visit Ibrox and return with only a 1-0 loss, but much worse was to follow.

A truly lamentable 2-0 defeat in Luxembourg was humiliating - almost as embarrassing as Caixinha standing remonstrating with irate Rangers fans who had travelled to the principality... while standing in a bush.

The writing was on the wall from then on. The man who proclaimed himself to be a top bullfighter, who had ordered green boots to be banned, eventually fell out with just about everyone.

Players were ordered in for training at 6am at their Auchenhowie training base. He clashed with veteran striker Kenny Miller and banished him from the squad. It was the same with Michael O'Halloran and Harry Forrester.

He rowed with a succession of fellow managers - McInnes, Tommy Wright and then Stephen Robinson at last week's Betfred Cup semi-final disastrous defeat to Motherwell.

An Old Firm loss to Celtic - who spent just £6 million this summer, around half of Caixinha's outlay - showed the gap between the sides was as big, if not bigger then ever.

Ultimately, Caixinha appeared to be oblivious to the No.1 rule for an Old Firm club. No defeat is acceptable. Ever.

"I'm still the manager of Rangers, of course I am," Caixinha smiled as he drove out of the gates of Auchenhowie the day after after a dismal 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock. He was later summoned to Ibrox and dimissed.

Like much of his time in Scotland, Caixinha was blissfully unaware of his surroundings and expectations.

And Rangers have wasted seven months on a failed experiment.

Belfast Telegraph

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