Rangers boss Mark Warburton insists he will not buckle as he prepares to sample his first Old Firm battle.
The Ibrox manager brushed off suggestions he will not be able to cope with the pressure when hostilities with Celtic are renewed in next month’s William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final.
The Englishman was responding to comments from former Parkhead boss Neil Lennon, who said: “Nothing will prepare Warburton for his first taste of the Old Firm as a manager.”
But the former City of London trader feels he has faced enough tense situations “in and out” of the game to prepare him for the Hampden clash.
He said: “I’m sure certain managers will say they have been misquoted or things have been taken out of context.
“You can’t turn round and say you are ready for it but I’m also somewhat bemused by people who say you won’t be able to deal with it.
“The fact is we’ve dealt with it all season. It’s another game of football. We understand the significance of it. It’s a highly-important game for the fans and it’s a semi-final. I get all of that.
“But if you can’t deal with that, don’t be in the business. My background is one that’s involved many pressurised situations in and out of football.
“If I can’t deal with it, I shouldn’t be doing the job, simple as that.”
Lennon also suggested the Light Blues lacked the physicality to topple Ronny Deila’s team, adding: “Celtic will be too strong for them in the end”.
But Warburton does not fear being outmuscled.
“As with all pundits, they are entitled to their opinion,” said the Rangers boss. “So whatever Neil or anyone else may think, that is down to them. I’m not going to criticise that.
“Football is a game of opinions and that’s the beauty of the sport, it incites so much opinions.
“But the fact is that we are very confident in our side and how we have fared this season. Our physicality in our minds is not in question.”
The Old Firm clash remains in the background of Warburton’s thoughts for the moment, with the chance to end four years of misery for the Ibrox outfit now tantalisingly close.
Victory away to Raith Rovers on Saturday, combined with a defeat for nearest rivals Hibernian at St Mirren, would hand Gers the Ladbrokes Championship crown and finally seal their return to the top flight.
And their manager wants to finish off their promotion push in style.
He said: “Raith are on a very good run of form right now so we need to go there and deliver a performance, otherwise we’ll get hurt.
“The focus is very much on what we do. What happens away from us we can’t control but what we can control is our own performance.
“On Saturday and Tuesday (against Dumbarton), the lads have the opportunity to take the club back to the top tier of Scottish football, so they are well aware of the significance and the expectations of the fans, the desire to get Rangers back to where they need to be.
“They recognise the opportunity but they’ve got to enjoy it. We don’t want to limp over the line. We want to finish in a convincing manner.”
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