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."
Drawing conclusions from a manager's first 90 minutes in charge can be a dangerous business. Using that methodology, you could have concluded that both Gordon Strachan and Brendan Rodgers were no-hopers on the strength of a 5-0 defeat to Artmedia Bratislava and that 1-0 humiliation to Lincoln Red Imps. 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.
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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 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 similar to the one that John Barnes at Celtic was once castigated for.
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, but both of these 'wide' men will be expected to get through plenty of running. 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."
It worked well on the day, but over-analysis should be resisted because of the limitations of the Lanarkshire side. While Hamilton were robust enough to beat Rangers' rivals for second place, Aberdeen, recently, and took a point here earlier in the season, Dougie Imrie was spot on afterwards when he said the Accies had been architects of their own downfall. With Rakish Bingham and Eamonn Brophy both dropped after a dismal showing against Hearts, and Alex D'Acol just working his way back after injury, Martin Canning fielded Imrie as a lone striker, a role he has not played for many years. Crucially, that meant there was no threat of pace behind the Rangers central defenders, and Imrie largely became an isolated, surrounded figure.
Canning's cautious game plan was based on bedding in to the game, but that was out the window after a well-worked first goal, finished by Hyndman after god work from Tavernier and Miller. Unlikely goal hero Clint Hill forced in his third in successive games from a wicked Toral dlievery, Waghorn earned then converted a penalty, before captain Wallace finished well after a nice Waghorn flick.
"I think they like to get the ball in behind more quickly than Mark Warburton's teams," said Imrie. "And obviously their movement is different class."
If the international break has come at a good time for Rangers, it is less so for Hamilton, who sit rock bottom of the league with a last three games which have seen them ship 14 goals and score none to stew over. "It has maybe come at a bad time for us because we would like to get back into it," said Imrie. "But it will give us a chance to get our players who have been out injured back and hopefully give us that edge to go into the last nine games if we want to stay in this league."