EMERSON Hyndman might have been on his way to San Jose by now, with a detour planned to Panama. But much as he would love to be part of Bruce Arena’s national side for two crucial World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama, the on-loan Bournemouth midfielder knows the next best thing is spending a fortnight at Auchenhowie adjusting to the methods which Pedro Caixinha hopes will take Rangers to second place in the Ladbrokes Premiership and William Hill Scottish Cup glory.
Despite having no league match this weekend, the methodical and disciplined Portuguese coach will expect his players to do their usual working week, culminating in a match involving first teamers and Under-20 players which will give him further ideas about his players’ strengths and weaknesses.
“Obviously it’s always good to be involved with the national team but this is a good time for me to stay here and get used to not only the manager, but the way he wants to work and even his staff members,” said Hyndman. “We want to get a feel for him as well as him getting a feel for us a team.”
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Drawing conclusions from a manager’s first 90 minutes in charge can be a dangerous business. It takes weeks, months and years to form a settled opinion on a manager’s body of work but first impressions of Caixinha – from an admittedly small sample size – were positive, even if the Ibrox side scored two fewer goals against Hamilton than Graeme Murty’s side had managed here just weeks previously.
While Murty, who helped out with the pre-match drills, was recognised by the supporters for the role he has played as interim manager, Caixinha’s very presence helped lift the mood from that seen towards the end of the Warburton era. There were no Murty-style handstands, but the former goalkeeper spent much of the afternoon stationed on the edge of the technical area, kicking every ball and gesticulating advice to his players at every opportunity. The fans who hailed him as a hero had no idea who he was just days previously but Caixinha is a confident figure who seemed to transmit that to his players.
The Portuguese said afterwards that he wanted his players to play like kids in the schoolyard, but they were hardly freestyling. Their expression came from a very organised shape, his team lining up in a 4-2-2-2 shape.
Two deep midfielders, Jon Toral and Jason Holt, screened the defence, with Holt appearing to have a little more licence to get forward. Hyndman and Barrie McKay started wide, with both drifting in off the flanks to allow James Tavernier and Lee Wallace to dominate the wide areas. With two strikers, Kenny Miller and Martyn Waghorn, there was more imperative to get the ball forward quickly.
“I thought it was a really good start,” said Hyndman. “We worked on a lot of things in training during the week and it is nice to see some of them show up in the game, especially this early.
“I didn’t know much about him but he has come in and been brilliant so far,” he added. “He’s very confident in himself and obviously that spreads around the team if the manager has confidence in himself. He’s a good guy - he is not super serious all the time and speaks good English as well, which is very important.
“He understands there is a lot of pressure at times, playing for a club like Rangers. It’s a huge club with a lot of expectations, so he just reminded us that it’s the game is there to be enjoyed as well. But he works in a way that is very structured and there is a great attention to detail.”