The night before last, Pedro Caixinha had dinner in Glasgow with Dave King and King’s son. They were over to take in the cup semi-final and to attend a board meeting which was to focus partly on the Ibrox chairman’s own future, or lack thereof. Those who witnessed the dinner said that it was friendly and jovial. There was no sign at all that the manager’s job was in danger, far less that he was just 36 hours from being relieved of his duties.
At that dinner, it’s thought that King pledged the manager his support and backing. All that was upended in less than a day. By the time King turned up at Ibrox this morning his mind had changed completely and the manager was on the verge.
This afternoon, Caixinha was told that he had been fired. He had just finished taking training with the players and seemed oblivious to goings-on elsewhere. When asked, on his way out of the club’s training ground if he still had a job he said “Of course.”
At some point he found out he was being summoned to the stadium. King had already departed by then. The man who, according to reports, had played no role whatsoever in appointing the club’s third manager since he took over wanted no part in his sacking.
Tonight, King is being touted as the great leader.
Is it possible that a late penalty miss and the subsequence concession of a goal can have made Dave King and others at Ibrox abandon all restraint, and their forward planning? Did Pedro Caixinha’s managerial future really pivot on a single moment in the dying embers of a game? Was a draw at home to Kilmarnock really worse than the humbling’s Celtic handed the team, the European exit or the weekend’s calamitous cup semi-final knockout?
The events of the last 20 hours are a nearly perfect summation of what is wrong at Ibrox; the operation at Sevco is a dysfunctional nightmare, with no single hand on the tiller, guiding the club towards the future. This will never be better illustrated than it was today, and it will be incredible if anyone is living in denial of that for a minute longer.
Caixinha’s sacking does not bring closure to their downward slide. It will accelerate the descent. It will expose the gaping hole being all the spin and the painful reality that no-one at the club appears even remotely ready to face up to.
Already the “experts” are throwing their two bobs worth in, giving “opinions” every bit as stupid as you would expect from the names in question. Kris Boyd has been on Sky talking about “the demands” of the job; what an enticement that kind of language must be for anyone thinking of throwing their hat in the ring.
The “demands” are part of the problem, wholly unrealistic nonsense which has frozen all progress there and levelled opportunities for frank discourse like the detonation of a nuclear bomb. The need for “someone who understands the club” is put above all else; no-one seems to have twigged that the club in question bears not the slightest resemblance to the one that inhabited that ground from the start of the Murray era until Whyte bought the lot for £1.
A “Real Rangers Man” with the delusions of grandeur which come with that appellation is as far from what Sevco requires as you could possibly get. Caixinha might have been out of left field, but the appointment was tantalising in that he brought none of that garbage with him. It is to his eternal shame that he later tried to embrace all of it; banning green boots, the sectarian slogan on the walls, the vicious rhetoric, the stoking of egos … none of it did him the slightest good, and dragged him down to a level he had certainly once been above.
But no examination of where that club is would be complete without a full understanding of how we got here. Until you grasp that, until you comprehend it in full, you cannot understand that the dysfunctionality does not depart the club with the manager and his coaching team. He was one of its symptoms. He was not the cause.
The appointment itself will go down in Celtic cyberspace history as the stuff of legend.
It followed hot on the heels of a quite spectacular reversal of club policy with the departure of Mark Warburton, who had been brought to Ibrox as the proof of King and his board’s long term vision; it lasted just over one season and the end was typically chaotic.
Warburton, to this day, denies that he resigned.
The media has shied away from the probing questions they should have been asking.
The club announced that it would hire a manager in due course; the plan was to hire a director of football first and let him play the lead role in the appointment. That plan, which they spent a full day selling to the media, and which proved they were taking a long term view, was cast aside almost casually when it became clear that interim manager Murty was blowing it; one result, at Celtic Park, has seen an almost shameless rewrite of history on that score, and they decided quickly to appoint the manager first and worry about the rest later.
The logic of going after the man whose team was sitting fifth in Qatar has still never been fully explained; quite how Caixinha, who not a soul in Scottish football had ever heard of, came to the attention of the club and the board will forever be a mystery.
But the media anointed him the favourite and then started to push him as an inspired choice.
About a week after he was confirmed I broke the incredible story that he had been hired via Skype; it sounded so absurd, so unbelievable, that I dared not believe that it was true, but every piece of research I did added weight to the central thesis. I never established whether or not he had even met with the board beforehand, but the evidence is overwhelming that if he did actually attend an interview in London that it was the only time during the period before he was unveiled that the directors ever clapped eyes on him in person.
Dave King, the alleged club chairman, played no role whatsoever at any stage of the interview process. He did not personally meet Caixinha until the day he was paraded in front of the press. This is extraordinary. It is not remotely professional.
At that first press conference, Caixinha told the media that he had the best squad in Scotland; seven months later hardly a trace of that squad remains at the club. He said that the team he replaced them with was the best in Scotland. Tonight they are fourth in the league, out of the League Cup and out of Europe against a team from Luxembourg.
Caixinha was a disaster, but he was a predictable disaster and many of us were saying from almost the hour of his appointment that it would end in tears, and not too far in the future. This was not a lucky guess. Nothing in his background made him remotely credible, but even a far better boss would have crumbled under the weight of all those “demands”, that and a dressing room clique which never supported his appointment and made no effort whatsoever to get behind it. Some of those responsible are still there and will haunt the next manager from the moment he takes his first steps into the dressing room.
Pedro Caixinha never stood a chance. His appointment was a joke, but it was a joke at the end of a long run of them. King’s own tenure at the club can be appraised as a complete wreck tonight; not one media outlet will dare to write that sentence though.
The press says he will take a more “hands on” role this time, along with the Director of Football Mark Allen, who has been conspicuous by his absence throughout all of this. The long term vision is in ruins. Tonight the talk is of appointing a manager quickly but, paradoxically, at the end of a process that will take “whatever time is necessary.”
They are already falling all over themselves with contradictions.
The next manager, whoever he is, will most likely be someone with a prior connection to the club, making him easy to sell to their gullible supporters. A man like Mark Allen would not touch anyone in that bracket with a bargepole, but I would guess his own role in this will be purely symbolic and a form of window dressing. An up and coming manager would be impossible to sell to the fans, but equally Allen would find the club impossible to sell to them.
So a “Real Rangers Man” determined to restore the Grand Old Days Of Yore, which were built on unsustainable debts, the largesse of a bank and a gigantic tax fraud, in full view of UEFA and the FFP regulators, with the Bampots watching his every move. No money to spend but that which the club earns. An expensive squad of dreck to ship out and replace. A support which will burn reputations to the ground in pursuit of wholly unreasonable expectations.
And believe it or not, there is likely to be a queue at the door; the unemployed and the unemployable.
Billy Davies leads the line.
If you’ve spent the last week praying for Pedro, try praying for that instead, because if it’s someone of that nature the fun might literally never stop.
Do not look for a long-term vision for the future.
Tonight, all the signs are pointing towards a great big step back into the past.
And not even the past of their own club, but the embrace of the very ideas and strategies that consigned the last one to the grave.
That club is a disaster zone, and the disaster is still unfolding.