Past links should not be main qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the as­sis­tant’s job

ANAL­Y­SIS Caix­inha should be al­lowed to bring in his own No 2 re­gard­less of pre­vi­ous as­so­ci­a­tion with club, writes James Mor­gan

Sunday Herald - - 19.03.17 SPORT -

THE ear­li­est days of a man­age­rial reign are un­de­ni­ably un­cer­tain but they are also the most im­por­tant. If he hadn’t al­ready con­sid­ered it, Pe­dro Caix­inha will know only too well the size of the task he has vol­un­teered for at Ibrox and he will want, where pos­si­ble, to be in con­trol of his own des­tiny.

There is the chal­lenge of com­mand­ing and en­gen­der­ing re­spect. There are decisions to be taken over a play­ing squad that is si­mul­ta­ne­ously bulky and short on qual­ity, while fresh re­cruit­ment – likely for a new spine – hinges on a bud­get which is noth­ing more than a neb­u­lous con­cept. There are, of course, all the con­comi­tant fac­tors as­so­ci­ated with tak­ing on any new job in a new city. Al­ready, though, it ap­pears the 46-year-old is op­er­at­ing with one hand tied be­hind his back. The Ibrox hi­er­ar­chy’s de­ci­sion to stall on ap­point­ing a di­rec­tor of foot­ball has cre­ated a power vac­uum of sorts, one which pro­duces the con­di­tions for well-con­ceived plans to founder.

When the Por­tuguese coach first held dis­cus­sions with the Rangers board in Lis­bon a lit­tle un­der a month ago, it is be­lieved he had a strong idea of who his first-choice as­sis­tant would be. But, a few weeks later, the nar­ra­tive has changed, rais­ing a fun­da­men­tal ques­tion in the process: Why is it so im­por­tant to have a deputy who has a link to Rangers’ past?

The prag­matic ap­proach is rooted in the fail­ure of the Paul Le Guen era a decade ego, when the French­man opted for an en­tire of back­room team of com­pa­tri­ots only to be left floun­der­ing be­cause he lacked lo­cal knowledge.

But the de­ci­sion to ap­point a lo­cal as­sis­tant feels as if it might have been foisted on Caix­inha. Cer­tainly, one would have ex­pected the Por­tuguese to bring in long-time as­sis­tant Helder Bap­tista, his fit­ness coach Pe­dro Malta and goal­keep­ing coach Jose Bel­man. But the pres­ence of a fourth ‘Rangers man’ has the air of the in­ter­loper about it.

It is a touchy sub­ject, of course. The Ibrox club has clung to its his­tory since liq­ui­da­tion through ne­ces­sity: to fos­ter heal­ing from within and with­stand the brick­bats from with­out.

Pic­tures of Caix­inha pe­rus­ing the var­i­ous baubles ac­cu­mu­lated by Rangers of old was in­struc­tive. It was an im­age loaded with mean­ing. It said: ‘Here is what this club is about, here is our iden­tity, no-one can take these tro­phies away from us’. Pre-oc­cu­pa­tion with the past has been a re­cur­ring theme around Rangers.

Re­tain­ing links with your her­itage is all very well if it is for the right rea­sons but in this in­stance it seems to look like con­ti­nu­ity for con­ti­nu­ity’s sake. Con­sider it from Caix­inha’s per­spec­tive – the man­ager should rea­son­ably ex­pect to be able to ap­point his own man.

Yes, it makes sense to have some-

one in situ who can give him an over­view of the lo­cal game but, re­ally, how long would it take any ob­server of pro­fes­sional foot­ball to get up to speed with the Scot­tish game?

The lack of fa­mil­iar­ity, of not hold­ing pre-con­ceived ideas about cer­tain clubs or play­ers would surely be an ad­van­tage.

Shorn of the blink­ers, Caix­inha might con­clude that he can make a de­fender out of say James Tav­ernier or that Bar­rie McKay needs to ex­pend more en­ergy to play in his team.

The word is that nu­mer­ous for­mer and cur­rent play­ers with Rangers links, some with lit­tle or no coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, are al­ready jock­ey­ing for po­si­tion. This is a wor­ry­ing de­vel­op­ment and smacks of in­di­vid­u­als who are mo­ti­vated by the chance to fur­ther fledg­ling (or non-ex­is­tent) coach­ing ca­reers.

And to whom does Caix­inha turn? Barry Fer­gu­son, Lee McCul­loch, Kenny Miller, Alex Rae . . . The list of would-be suit­ors is hardly in­spir­ing and im­me­di­ately raises an­other prob­lem: that of hav­ing a strong per­son­al­ity in the dress­ing room who might com­mand a greater loy­alty than he would ex­pect to garner him­self from his play­ers.

Rangers should be brave and al­low Caix­inha to clear the decks on his own terms. The ob­ses­sion with for­mer glo­ries is un­der­stand­able but to all in­tents and pur­poses – whichever the colour of your blink­ers – they belong to an­other era.

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