Graeme Souness: Mark Warburton has it much harder than I did

Souness has been impressed by the job Mark Warburton has done. Picture: SNS

Souness has been impressed by the job Mark Warburton has done. Picture: SNS

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Graeme Souness helped transform Rangers when he took over at Ibrox 30 years ago - but the former manager insists current boss Mark Warburton has faced a much tougher re-building job.

Souness, 62, is credited with re-awakening the sleeping Glasgow giants from their mid-1980s slumber.

When he took over as player/manager, the former Liverpool midfielder found a club lagging behind Celtic and the emerging ‘New Firm’ force of Aberdeen and Dundee United.

But his capture of big-name signings from England such as Terry Butcher and Mark Woods helped restore the Light Blues to a solid footing and set the foundations for the nine successive titles they won from 1989.

However, Souness admits he had it easy compared to the task which met Warburton last summer.

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The Englishman was forced to pick up the pieces after the club’s promotion bid crumbled 12 months ago but quickly breathed new life into Gers with his attacking philosophy, leading the side back to the Ladbrokes Premiership after clinching the Championship crown last week.

The Petrofac Training Cup was claimed on Sunday and the ex-Brentford boss could take another step towards making it a trophy hat-trick if his side can overcome Celtic in this weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final.

Souness said: “He’s had a far more difficult job than I had. There were so many things that worked in our favour at the time, such as the problems English football had.

“We could match any one of the English team for their spending power. English teams were banned from Europe, so we had lots of things going for us.

“That job was a lot easier for me that it was for Mark taking over at Rangers this time.

“I think he deserves a great deal of credit. I don’t know the guy but I sat next to him at Wembley for the Norwich-Middlesbrough play-off game. I spent maybe 10 minutes talking to him but found him to be a very impressive, calm, nice human being.

“He’s done a great job.”

Warburton, however, has tried to play down the significance of what will be his first taste of the Old Firm battle at Hampden next Sunday.

And Souness had a word of caution after insisting the Glasgow derby is the most intense match he ever experienced.

Told Warburton has claimed Sunday’s game is “just another match”, the former Scotland skipper replied: “Really? Well it certainly isn’t. It’s the biggest derby I’ve been involved in.

“The Liverpool-Everton one is a friendly derby. The Galatasaray one with Fenerbahce is a big game but it still doesn’t come near this one.

“Nothing prepared me for the passion and the enormity of this job. A lot of the enormity is in your own mind because you feed off the passion your supporters have for your football club. You absorb that and start to feel guilty when you’ve not done the best for them.

“So Mark must feel that. He’s been here long enough to realise what these two clubs mean to their supporters. It’s greater here than anywhere else. And that’s why it’s not just another derby.”

Celtic are on course to clinch their fifth successive title but Souness reckons Rangers will give Ronny Deila’s side a much closer examination than they managed in last year’s League Cup semi-final.

Then a Gers team led by caretaker boss Kenny McDowall seemed relieved to escape Hampden after suffering just a 2-0 defeat.

“Celtic obviously start as the big favourites,” Souness said at a press conference promoting Sunday’s semi-final.

“They play in the top league. The challenge for Rangers is to turn up and make a game of it. They didn’t do that last year.

“Anything can happen in derbies but Celtic must start as the outstanding favourites. I want Rangers to do themselves justice.

“I would hope it would be closer this time. Rangers are better than they were last year. Are Celtic? I’m not sure. Rangers certainly are but I don’t think that means they are going to turn up and have an easy game.

“It will be difficult because Celtic are used to playing against better players every week, they are used to moving the ball quicker, having a quicker thought process.

“But it’s a derby game and Rangers have a big chance. This is not a foregone conclusion.”

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