THE arrival of Mark Warburton was greeted as a way of heralding in a new era at Rangers. So far it has been a positive one and although the anger which ambushed former owner Craig Whyte, Charles Green and David Whitehouse outside of court this week indicated that barely healed wounds had been re-opened, the football manager is adamant that the players will be unaffected by the latest airing of dirty laundry.
“I don’t see why that should be the case. I think football fans want to follow their football club and look at how their team performs. They want to enjoy the matchday and the build-up and get value for money.
“If we are giving them that, that’s our job. If they enjoy what they see, if they see a real work ethic from the players and the results are going our way, that should be the overriding factor.”
Unbeaten in the first eight games of the season, the sense of optimism which enshrouds Ibrox these days is a far cry from the turmoil of the past few seasons. If there was a danger that anyone would take that for granted, this week’s bilious episodes and the regurgitation of the antics of regimes past will have quashed that.
“It’s not a case of how good the fans have got it now,” said Warburton. “We have a long way to go. It is about the players and the supporters can see they are committed and giving their best.”
Down south, when the misery of the past few years, including liquidation and the subsequent traipse back up through the divisions, played out, Warburton said he was as engrossed in the saga as anyone in the game but his focus now is football matters.
Right now it is about Raith and nothing can distract us from thatMark Warburton
“You couldn’t fail to see it. Every football fan up and down the country knew what was going on because of the size of Glasgow Rangers.
“We watched it on TV and it was heartbreaking to see, really, some of it. Our job as a football department is to come in now and try to play the right kind of attractive football that the fans enjoy. If we do that, we have made some strides in the right direction.
“My focus is the football department. It has to be. If we lose focus and concentration, the team are weakened by that. All the staff have to focus on being best prepared. Right now, it is about Raith [in the Championship, on Saturday] and nothing can distract us from that.”
But the legal sideshow does make him even more determined to give the fans something positive to cling to and assure them that having come through so much pain, they now have a team and a club which is well on the way to recovery.
“When we went to Airdrie, there were more than 7,000 there and there were banks of Rangers fans at Queen of the South on Sunday. With 50,000 at Ibrox, that is our responsibility. We use that message every week with the players, but the right players enjoy that responsibility. The wrong players drown under it.”
If players feel pressure he knows that the same can be said of referees. They have come under intense scrutiny in recent games, with a series of decisions debated at length in the media, including incidents in Rangers’ match at Palmerston Park.
Yesterday referee Willie Collum was embarrassed by the downgrading of the red card he showed Hearts defender Callum Paterson during the Tynecastle side’s first league defeat of the campaign at the weekend and, while Warburton wouldn’t be drawn on the quality of the officiating he has encountered in Scotland, he said there was a need for improved interaction between the match referees and the players and managers.
“So much is at stake now in winning football matches that the scrutiny is more and more. We can maybe communicate better with match officials and try to improve the quality of the product. If we can do that, then we can make some positive strides.
“It’s understanding how we see the game as well and what we’re looking for as managers and coaches. We did a lot of work down south, working with David Allison and referees about how we can help them.
“They have a really tough job, so I’m not ignoring the fact of how hard it is, and you’re going to get incidents. But such is the level of what’s at stake now in the game that those decisions are under scrutiny. So if we can help in terms of what we’re looking at, what we see, how our players react, why they react, how could we improve? Come in to training sessions, for example, could they come and referee an eight-a-side.
“Look at our last game, things happened in that game that were discussion points so can we learn from them? We say to the players we have to learn. That shouldn’t just be reserved to the players only.”