By Steven Clifford | Guest Contributor
Pedro Caixinha became Rangers' 16th manager on March 11 this year when he joined the Light Blues from Qatar Stars outfit Al-Gharafa.
The Portuguese manager was unknown to most but arrived with an experienced CV, learning his trade as assistant at the likes of Sporting Lisbon, Panathinaikos and the Saudi Arabian national team. He then graduated to manage in Mexico winning three honours at club side Santos Laguna before joining Al-Gharafa in 2015.
It is said that the Portuguese manager was highly impressive in his original interviews with the club and the outstanding candidate for the job. He was described by SFA Director of Football, Jim Fleeting, as "an extremely confident coach, cool very calm and collected" during his training for his UEFA Pro-Licence badges. Pedro is an intelligent man, a graduate of sports science and holds a masters degree in training methodology. He is no stranger to the technical side of the game.
During his time with Santos Laguna he was instrumental in introducing technology to measure heart rate, passing effectiveness and distance travelled, with this equipment used by top clubs around the world to prevent injuries. Known as a hard task master his training techniques were said to be firm, direct and unafraid to try new things, often keeping his players for 12 hours during training.
Mexican sports writer Gilberto Prado described Pedro as "a man who’s stubborn, tenacious and self-assured up to the last millimetre of the pitch. Caixinha did what he wanted and he did it very well." It should come as absolutely no surprise why he charmed the Rangers board and how he came to find himself arriving in Govan in early March.
On the back of a morale boosting 1-1 draw at our nearest rivals, Pedro took charge of his first game the following Saturday at home to Hamilton at a sold out Ibrox.
The packed crowd was eager to see what the new man could bring to a squad which has suffered remarkably up until this point, defeats at Tynecastle, Inverness and Dundee to name but a few had left this squad heavily criticised in all quarters and without the trust of a fan base who had grown tired of the same old formations, same old mistakes and same old outcomes.
Pedro spoke well, seemed determined and upon looking at the above seemed obvious that this was his time to take the next step in his career. A solid performance and a 4-0 win was the perfect start for Pedro but it was the following Saturday during a 1-1 draw with Motherwell at Ibrox when the home support got a startling insight into the character of the Portuguese manager. Trailing 1-0 at HT, Pedro substituted three of his four defenders going for broke and secured a point in an afternoon that certainly had the fans on the edge of their seat.
The collective mumblings and shock in the crowd as the players emerged in the second half will be remembered for a long time, but what was clear even that early was you either done it the way of the boss or you don’t do it at all.
A midweek draw at Kilmarnock summed up the problems Pedro would face in the closing of the season, goals were hard to come by and turning this squad's attitude around from accepting results such as this, was not going to be easy. Perhaps the best moment of Pedro’s managerial reign came at Pittodrie when three goals in four minutes gave Rangers a resounding 0-3 result in which the Light Blues produced the perfect 'smash n grab', soaking up pressure and hitting on the break.
Tactically we were good and the substitutions perfect, bringing on Joe Dodoo to hit the wings etc, and this was a moment to build on and get excited about. A 2-0 victory at home to Partick Thistle set Pedro up nicely going into a double header with Celtic, with three wins in five and four clean sheets.
The resulting defeats including a disastrous record breaking defeat at home piled the pressure on the new manager. Gaping lapses in defence and a side devoid of shape, the Gers were torn apart, giving Pedro’s media enemies the chance to put the boot in big style.
The fanbase was torn as daily online debate sparked division amongst the support, had Rangers made a massive mistake in appointing such an unknown? Pedro finished the season with three wins out of four but once again managed to break a record with Aberdeen finally winning at Ibrox for the first time since folk still sat for oil paintings.
It’s fair to say that Pedro has had his critics but it is also fair to say that managing to find any sort of results in the close of season 16/17 was remarkable given the standard of player amassed at Ibrox and the clear loser mentality which had set in. This squad was unbalanced, capable of playing only one formation and full of players not with the mindset or skill set to take this club where it needed to be.
The manager not only had to rip the squad up and start again, he has had to install a siege mentality within the club to try and get ready for season 17/18. European football was back at Ibrox but unfortunately it came to soon for the manager and his players.
New signings unavailable, Rangers fell to a hugely embarrassing 2-1 aggregate defeat to unknown Progres Niederkorn, thus giving the media the chance to stick the boot in once again. Stories of Pedro arguing with fans after the match quickly circulated before the true pictures emerged.
The manager took the full blame for the defeat but in the calm of the storm the undeniable truth cannot be hidden, it was a terrible result and only gave the doubters yet more ammunition.
Which brings us to the present day and weeks on from the European disaster small signs are beginning to show on the pitch.
A strong performance against Marseille heralded a 1-1 draw at Ibrox and a 2-1 victory against Watford have given the support a lift with just over a week until our trip to Motherwell. Impressive results against both teams, but more importantly the new signings are beginning to bed in, the team looks organised and capable of following the manager’s instructions.
A strong foundation is being laid through the team and the weak-willed players of last year awaiting a move from our club. Pedro has faced a media onslaught, reports of dressing room betrayal and being undermined by those he wishes to get rid of from our club, those that have not only undermined him but undermined our club.
Pedro Caixinha came to Rangers early to assess the squad and our club and what he found was radical surgery was needed. Radical surgery that would not be able to be completed overnight and a job in turning our club around from accepting failure to a winning mentality.
The Rangers support have for years yearned for a manager with strong will and desire to turn things around, to not stand for dressing room unrest and pre-madonna footballers. Pedro has set to rid the club of this and set about creating a winning mentality.
Recruitment has been strong and now is the time for Pedro to silence his critics. There are question marks, there is doubts but as a support as next Sunday comes we will do what we do best and stand with our manager and players as we embark on another journey in season 17/18.
Pedro Caixinha: The man described as iron willed and stubborn now has his own players at his disposal. It is now that we can properly judge the man and judge his team. One thing is for sure, this club craves success and Pedro has the same desires, it’s in this man we place our trust as we head into the new season.
We have your back Pedro and you have our support.
You can follow Steven on Twitter - @stevietrueblue