Mark Warburton ‘nothing to gain’ from Celtic Park visit

Warburton stayed at home rather than watch Dundee take on Celtic. Picture: SNS

Warburton stayed at home rather than watch Dundee take on Celtic. Picture: SNS

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As it turned out, Mark Warburton might have experienced a warmer reception from the home support at Celtic Park on Wednesday night than was afforded to Ronny Deila.

But the Rangers manager’s decision not to assess tomorrow’s Scottish Cup quarter-final opponents Dundee in person was made simply on the basis he felt his presence on the other side of Glasgow’s great footballing divide would have been a waste of his time.

Instead of watching Paul Hartley’s reshaped and reshuffled line-up earn the 0-0 draw with the Scottish champions, which prompted jeers for Celtic manager Deila and his players, Warburton opted for a quiet night in watching a DVD of Dundee’s 1-0 defeat at Aberdeen in January.

With Hartley having left so many key first-team regulars out of his starting line-up in midweek, Warburton is convinced his choice of homework will prove far more useful as he looks to plot their downfall at Ibrox.

“Dundee played three at the back against Celtic with five changes to their team, so what do I gain from watching that?” said Warburton.

“If I’d thought it would be beneficial, I would have gone to Celtic Park but I sat at home watching Dundee’s game at Aberdeen to see what they do and how they play.

“People go to games sometimes for the sake of it, just to tick a box. For me, you only go if you think it’s beneficial, not just for the sake of being seen in the crowd.

“Paul indicated beforehand he was going to play different personnel. He indicated who he was going to drop and was true to his word. That tells us they have strength in depth because they went to Celtic, who are top of the table, and played with confidence and belief.

“From the bits of the game I’ve seen this morning, it was a very well deserved draw, it wasn’t lucky.”

Rangers have enjoyed mixed fortunes against Premiership opponents under Warburton, going out of the League Cup to St Johnstone earlier in the season before defeating Kilmarnock in the Scottish Cup last month.

The Englishman sees no clear disparity in the standard of the top-flight clubs and those at the top of the Championship, which Rangers now lead by 14 points.

“I am not being rude in any way, but I don’t see the gap,” added Warburton. “Alan Stubbs at Hibs and Peter Houston at Falkirk have also said it – the gap between the Championship to Premiership is not big in Scotland.

“Down south, the gap between the Premier League and Championship is huge because of the financial disparity, with hundreds of millions of pounds going around the top flight.

“For us this will be a tough challenge on Saturday, a tough test, because Dundee are an established Premiership team. But we are Rangers, we’re at Ibrox, we’re 14 points clear in the league and we’re looking forward to it.

“All the games we play are tough tests because teams have different things to play for. Dundee will come here looking to win a trophy because winning silverware will be their aim. Our job is to deliver our level of performance. So we look forward to it, there’s nothing to fear.”

In analysing Rangers’ potential to compete meaningfully and consistently at the top of the Premiership next season, however, Warburton accepts his current squad will require significant strengthening.

“I don’t know where we would be in the Premiership right now,” he said. “It’s all supposition. We are a young team, we brought in 11 players last summer and are only seven months into our development. We know our philosophy and what we want, but we are still raw.

“But it would be naive to think you can go against established teams like Celtic, Aberdeen and Hearts who have battle-hardened squads. I think we need to add between four and six players and then also look to the English Premier League loan market.

“As a coaching team, we’ve made it very clear to the club what we think it will take to get those players. If we are talking £75 million, then it’s not going to happen. But the lines of communication are excellent, there’s no problem with that and we are in a good place.”

While the primary objective of automatic promotion which Rangers chairman Dave King set for Warburton is now firmly within his grasp, he also has his sights set on winning the Scottish Cup.

“We would be going for it in the cup regardless of how we were doing in the league,” he said. “I cannot understand how anyone talks about a winning mentality on one hand and then weakens their team for a cup game.

“Any team should go into the cup trying to win it. You give it your best shot. If you get beaten by a better team, so be it. But you go into it looking to win it.

“We’ll go as strong as we can against Dundee, it’s as simple as that. We have a couple of players [Michael O’Halloran and Billy King] cup-tied but we’ll be as strong as we can on Saturday, there is no doubt about that.”

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