THERE is something of the old in his new football abode for Rangers’ head of recruitment Frank McParland. And not just because the first man to take on chief scout duties at the Ibrox club for two and a half years is back working with Mark Warburton, as he did at Watford and, more recently, Brentford. Memories of his two-decade association with Liverpool are being stirred..
“Rangers is a great club,” said the former chief scout and academy director on Merseyside. “I look around it and it reminds me of Liverpool. The football side of things here is absolutely massive. Glasgow is like Liverpool too. The people are very similar, with a great sense of humour, and the national food is the same – Indian. So I am right at home.”
Yet, the reality is that, as footballing operations, Scottish Championship Rangers and English Premier League Liverpool are poles apart.
Cost-cutting by then Ibrox chief executive Charles Green meant the Ibrox club lost their scouting operation with Neil Murray’s departure in April 2013.
“That must’ve been difficult,” McParland said. “Coming from my background, at Liverpool we must have had 30 scouts around the world. Mark and David have done really well in bringing in players and dealing with agents and clubs because there is no real scouting network at the club. That’s for me to get my head around and build up eventually. I would say this is the biggest challenge of my career.”
The pull of working with Warburton and Weir again meant McParland vacating a post at Burnley he took up only in May. Like his footballing confreres, Brentford owner Mark Benham’s decision to seek a more statistically-based approach in his coaching department meant it was time to move on from the London club in May.
“It was always on the cards, myself the manager and David would work together again. I really feel we have a great bond between the three of us,” McParland said. “We trust each other implicitly, we are honest with each other and all on the same wavelength when it comes to players.
“Very rarely do I like a player Mark doesn’t. I have to be honest and say they were the draw. But the fact the club is such a massive institution was also a major part of it.”
McParland famously played a major part in the development of Raheem Sterling, who moved to Liverpool in a £5 million deal from Queens Park Rangers. The 20-year-old, teased from Anfield by Manchester City in the summer for a fee that could rise to £49m, is the “stand out” signing for McParland. “I started watching him when he was 14 and a lot of clubs really fancied him. A lot didn’t, but we were lucky to be in the right position to get it done,” he said. “He just wanted to improve every day. The kid is like a freak. He works so hard.
“He is not just the quickest, but he can run the longest. A lot is down to his exuberance and desire to play footy. He is an unbelievable professional and person. I still speak to him now.”
The Rangers scout also delights in the progress of Andre Gray, whom he signed for Brentford and Burnley. “When on pre-season to America, the gaffer called me and said: ‘I am not sure about this one, Andre Gray’,” McParland recalled. “ ‘He has been that poor in training that the lads are laughing at him’. I said: ‘Gaffer, don’t worry about it. He’ll be all right’.”
McParland also revealed how he drove James McCarthy down to Liverpool for a trial but after he scored a 40-yard chip against Jerzy Dudek his parents didn’t want him to move. Warburton considers his latest move as landing him “one of the best in the business”.
He said: “People like Frank, Neil McIlhargey [head of analysis], Craig Flannigan [head of performance and preparation] are equally as important signings as any player.”