After a nightmare week Pedro Caixinha was finally relieved of his managerial duties at Ibrox.
A stoppage time equaliser for bottom of the table Kilmarnock scored by former Rangers winger Chris Burke was the final nail in the coffin for the Portuguese manager, who was hired only seven months ago.
At the weekend Rangers were hounded out of the League Cup by a Louis Moult inspired Motherwell, in a combative match where Caixinha was sent to the stands for over exerting his disapproval at his ‘Well counterpart Stephen Robinson and referee Steven McLean.
The sending off was the latest example of Caixinha struggling to harness his emotion, and he had become an easy target for a Scottish media that obsessively scrutinises the affairs of the Old Firm. As the club’s leading man Caixinha was never going to have an easy ride when his press conferences featured comments such as, “To give passion to the penguin you must first seduce the goose.”
The appointment of Caixinha was bizarre at the time. It was a nuclear option to try and severely rattle the domination of Celtic under Brendan Rodgers. The other candidates after Mark Warburton was relieved of his duties were uninspiring on paper, and yes Caixinha offered something different – but with his best results in Mexico and the Middle East it was a gamble to offer him the keys to the door of the Govan institution.
After an inauspicious start it was then madness to fund the Portuguese manager with over £8million for a summer transfer spree. A defeat to Luxembourgish minnows Progres Niederkorn in the first qualifying round of the Europa League, the loss to Motherwell in the cup and an underperforming current standing of 4th in the SPFL Premiership table make the multi-million pound investment look even crazier.
Given Rangers well documented off field financial doubts it was like giving your problem gambler friend a loan, which you know you shouldn’t trust him with. Understandably, the investment backfired.
Who next for Rangers?
Now that Pedro Caixinha has gone, Rangers should have a coffee, a cold shower and recalculate.
Celtic are lightyears ahead of their historic rivals and that must be acknowledged by the Rangers board. A reality check would also inform them that even this invincible Celtic team will have a shelf-life. How much more can Brendan Rodgers achieve at the helm of the Parkhead club? They dominate domestically, and then face a mirror image of this when challenged by the elite clubs of the Champions League. Celtic have their limitations.
Rodgers will only know more about the potential of his team when they enter the Europa League knockout stages after Christmas. A poor showing by Celtic may make him realise he’d be better off investing his time at a club in a bigger league, whilst a run to the latter stages may attract the attention of a bigger European club.
If the Ibrox board have learned anything from the Caixinha experience it must be that they can not bridge the massive gap in the foreseeable future. However, Rangers are better resourced than any other Scottish team and if any club can challenge Celtic it will be the Ibrox men (as a confident Aberdeen experienced during a one sided demolition by Celtic at Pittodrie last night.)
To be in pole position for any potential lowering in the standard of their Glasgow counterparts, Rangers must get their house in order and lay the foundations for that next step, rather than feed the fantasy that they are ready to immediately challenge Celtic.
For now, Rangers must concentrate on reestablishing themselves as the second team in Scotland, a title that has indisputably belonged to Aberdeen for the last three seasons. With their much greater resources – and only a five point gap behind the Pittodrie club after 11 league games – this is achievable by the end of the season.
Therefore, I believe that the short term appointment of a transitional manager is what Rangers should really be looking for. Once stability has been achieved then they can look at advancing with a progressive coach in the mould of a Brendan Rodgers, for example.
This strategy makes sense when considering the likely financial restrictions on a new Rangers manager. It is very unlikely that the next manager will see a similar transfer budget in the January 2018, or even possibly the summer 2018 windows. Caixinha’s replacement will be expected to grind the best out of the current squad.
Finally, I don’t anticipate that Rangers fans will be best pleased should the likes of Graeme Murty be promoted internally. This is a problem for two reasons. The support are expecting a top name to restore their glories and there is nothing inspiring about Murty. Secondly, choosing to look inside of Ibrox reveals an admission to the outside world that perhaps the finances are in a poor condition like many speculate.
Several bookmakers have been quick to price up the next Rangers manager, and here I will assess the likely contenders. The shortest available prices are listed, and were correct at the time of posting.
Derek McInnes 6/4 Fav with BetVictor
The popular Aberdeen manager was brutally honest following last night’s humbling defeat to Celtic. He said, “Even though we’re trying to be competitive with them and will continue to try to be competitive, the gulf is huge in terms of what they can do and bring to the club.”
This looks like the Eureka moment that made McInnes realise he is not going to make a breakthrough with Aberdeen, at least not any time soon.
Rangers and McInnes are a good fit – and it is not an easy thing to admit as an Aberdeen fan. I can definitely see the day where McInnes stands in the Ibrox dugout, but I extremely doubt that now is the time.
He is known to be a Rangers fan, and of course is a former player. However, after a bad experience of managing in England with Bristol City, McInnes is cautiously appraising his next move. In the summer he wisely turned down the position as Sunderland manager, and he is likely to refuse any approach from Rangers – for much the same reason.
If Rangers are serious about building a project that matches the ambitions of McInnes then they must get their house in order. McInnes would be taking a big risk if he is willing to become the transition manager, and the chances are that even if he finds moderate success at restoring stability to Ibrox there is currently no climate for a long term appointment.
McInnes would rather be viewed as the manager responsible for bringing the glory days back to Ibrox and if he takes the job now, it is very unlikely he will be given the necessary time to do so.
Alex McLeish 7/2 (Second favourite) with Skybet
Alex McLeish has a great history with the Ibrox club, having won many honours there as manager from his tenure in charge from 2001 to 2006.
The former Aberdeen and Scotland defender has seen his career fall off the wagon during recent years with short term, and unsuccessful, spells in charge of Nottingham Forest, Genk of Belgium and Zamalek of Egypt.
It is clear that McLeish still has aspirations in the game as his recent application to the post of Scotland manager indicates. McLeish is by no means an old man at 58 and could be tempted back into the club game.
McLeish’s name was mentioned seven months ago prior to Caixinha’s arrival. He revealed to Sky Sports, “When you get asked to come to a club like Rangers then its for sure a decision to turn that down.”
He later expressed that he felt the Rangers board were displaying a preference for the eventual appointee, and that he was unsure the job was for him at that time.
This time around the Rangers board may realise that it may be time to roll back the years.
McLeish seems very interested in getting back into management. He is unlikely to be given the call to manage his country again and even if it is for another short term gig, the Ibrox hotseat looks like a smart choice for Rangers.
Billy Davies 4/1 (Joint 3rd favourite) with Paddypower
Surely not? He’s a ‘Rangers man’, but he’s a volatile Rangers man.
He has no credibility following a bizarre newspaper interview in which he discussed that there is a conspiracy in the football world to smear his integrity.
Davies has been out of work for a long time. Another loose cannon is not what Rangers need.
Graeme Murty 4/1 (Joint 3rd favourite) with BetVictor
The interim manager takes up the post for the second time this calendar year, and if his employers get it right this should be his final tenure.
As discussed before, giving the job to Murty will not appease the fans, and sends a message to the footballing world that Rangers are lacking in money.
Murty’s the cheap option, but one that is unproven over a longer term.
Kenny Miller 7/1 (Joint 4th favourite) with Paddypower
Caixinha’s isolation of Kenny Miller last month was the beginning of the end for the now departed manager.
It seems obvious that Miller was disruptive behind the scenes, and whether he was in the right or in the wrong, it would be a mistake to give the job to the former Scottish international on that basis.
Many high earning players were brought to Ibrox in the summer, and Miller’s actions behind the scenes won’t have endeared him to them. It will only heighten tensions.
All that before factoring in his lack of any managerial experience.
Frank de Boer 7/1 (Joint 4th favourite) with Skybet
If de Boer takes this job following embarrassing spells at Crystal Palace and Inter Milan then it will probably be his last job in football.
The Dutch legend needs to restore his reputation and this job is too big a risk for him.
He is in the same boat as McInnes – there is a strong reason to link his name to the job but he will want a steadier ship to steer.
Don’t expect de Boer to turn up in Glasgow.
Interesting Long Shots
Tommy Wright 10/1 with Paddypower
The St Johnstone manager has done wonders on a shoe string with the Perth club.
In recent months he has noticeably been trying to raise his media profile having been overlooked for job after job despite a very decent CV.
Wright is desperate for an opportunity and he would be a sensible choice for the Rangers board, at least in the short term. There are doubts over whether Wright has the stature to take on such a big job, but this should not be a deterrent to the Rangers board.
Wright will be a cheap option, understands how to get the best out of a team and would be easy to replace in a year or so’s time.
Sam Allardyce 12/1 with Paddypower
‘Allardici’ has too large a profile to consider Rangers at this time.
Had Rangers not squandered their funds on the Caixinha pipe dream then the abilities of Allardyce to turnaround the fortunes of an underperforming team would be ideal.
Allardyce talked down the Scotland National Team job, and he surely won’t fancy a job in Scottish club football.
Steve Robinson 14/1 with Paddypower
Robinson guided Motherwell to victory in the semifinal of the League Cup and his team sit 3rd in the SPFL Premiership table.
Although its a promising start to the season, it is uncertain whether this is a purple patch for the Northern Irishman
Prior to arriving at Fir Park he had a disappointing time in charge in the English lower leagues.
Too many unknowns exist over Robinson.
Barry Ferguson 20/1 with Skybet
The former Rangers captain has had managerial experience at Blackpool at Clyde, but neither tenure can be determined a success.
Ferguson regularly appears as a de-facto Rangers correspondent on BBC Sportsound. Despite his obvious adoration for his club he rarely comes across as the sharpest knife in the drawer.
He was previously linked to the club as a potential assistant manager. Perhaps he will return to Govan, but it won’t be as the number one.
Alan Pardew 20/1 with Skybet
Pardew has developed the reputation as a laughing stock within English football, and his days in the English Premier League are at an end.
The former Newcastle, West Ham and Crystal Palace manager is experienced and well connected. He would command a high wage but he does have a reputation that might make the Ibrox board to consider him seriously.
Pards may have seen what Brendan Rodgers has done at Celtic and fancy a crack at working in Scotland. A long shot, but there are reasons to think he’s in the mix.
Harry Redknapp 25/1 with BetVictor
Redknapp is another seasoned English manager with a big reputation in the game.
Time has clearly passed him by at the top of the sport with his dated approach to football appearing naive by modern elite standards.
He hasn’t given up the dream though and talked himself into discussion for the Scotland post.
On the longlist of names and with the unpredictability of the Rangers board you never know.
In my opinion Alex McLeish should be the betting favourite to become the next Rangers manager. I have personally backed him at a bigger price than listed in this article, and I also have a stake on Tommy Wright whose name will certainly be linked.