MOST of what he saw as he took in his new surroundings at Ibrox for the first time yesterday left Mark Warburton with a sense of awe and excitement.
But one part of his tour of the stadium was perhaps enough to briefly induce a cold sweat for the club’s 15th manager.
The portrait of Jock Wallace on a wall at the top of the marble staircase inside Ibrox certainly prompted a moment of reflection for Warburton.
The irony is not lost on him that the man who shaped his outlook on coaching and management was someone whose methods he diametrically opposed.
Wallace, who won ten major honours, including two trebles, as Rangers manager, was in charge of Leicester City when the teenage Warburton came across him and railed against the former jungle fighter’s old-school approach to discipline and training.
Having failed to make the grade with Leicester, Warburton became a journeyman footballer with Enfield and Boreham Wood, while also building a hugely successful and lucrative career as a city trader.
That has influenced his own progressive style of football management which led unfashionable Brentford into the English Championship play-offs last season and which has persuaded Rangers he is the right man to restore their fortunes.
It’s safe to assume a trip to the Gullane sand dunes, where Wallace famously put his players through their pre-season paces during his two spells as manager, is not on Warburton’s immediate agenda.
“I was standing at the top of the staircase for a photo earlier and when I was asked to smile, I looked up and saw big Jock’s picture on the wall,” said Warburton.
“I saw him looking down on me and thought ‘No, I’d better be very careful!’ All jokes aside, I’m very respectful of a fantastic manager and everything he achieved for Rangers.
“But it was different for me back then and I learned from that experience under him at Leicester. Because of that, I knew at a very early age what I wanted to do in terms of coaching and dealing with people.
“Not just players, but dealing with people. When I was working in the city, I’d manage exactly the same way.
“It’s inspiring to look at the pictures of the former managers which are on the walls here at Ibrox. It has to be. It’s the same in the city, when you walk into a major bank it can be daunting and a heavy load on your back or you can relish it.
“When you look at the Blue Room and the Trophy Room here, how can you not be inspired by that?
“When I left my old environment in the city, I didn’t know what to expect from football. I didn’t know how far I could go. I set myself a ten-year target and if it didn’t work, I’d have to re-think it. It worked out well within that ten-year period and to be sitting here today is fantastic.”
Reaction to Warburton’s appointment has been generally positive among Rangers fans who also clearly approve of former captain David Weir’s return to the club as assistant manager.
But for those who may doubt his credentials, due to his relatively short experience as a manager with Brentford, Warburton had a message.
“Forget me,” said the 52-year-old. “Take me out of the equation – you’ve got to trust the board here. I hope very much that the board have done their due diligence on me. Obviously David Weir is better known to the club.
“You do your research, you interrogate what we are about – how we go about our business and what we can achieve. I hope very much they’ve done their homework in that respect and have got the right result.
“Managers and coaches have to ask the right questions too. Sometimes you have managers who are out of work for two or three months and are desperate to get back in again. Maybe they are wary of asking the right questions.
“But I think you have to ask what the expectations of the club are, what sort of support are we going to receive, what are the timescales, what are the short, medium and longer term targets?
“If you ask the right questions and get the right answers, you must be excited by it. I got very positive answers about the ambition of the club. That was very clear, as was the passion behind the club. There is a desire to take the club back to where it was before. That shone through in all the conversations we had.
“David and myself have worked together closely and he would speak about Rangers every day and where it should be.
“We had a good season last year at Brentford. We always talk to players about making good decisions on the pitch. David and I also talk about making good decisions off the pitch.
“So it was important for us to look at this decision and whether it was the right one for all parties. If we were not up to this job, we would be honest about it now.
“There is no point being honest about it in six months’ time when you are struggling. So we looked very long and hard at it and asked the right questions.
“At Brentford, we had a smaller budget compared to other clubs in the Championship. It was a bottom six budget. There are some very big clubs in that division, some of them receiving parachute payments from the Premier League.
“We were well supported by the board there and hopefully we rewarded them as well.
“This is obviously a leap for us. Look around you here – this is my first time at Ibrox and I’m not going to disrespect the size of the task ahead of us.
“This is a new environment for me. But David Weir is a fantastic man to have alongside me and I’ll pick his brains every single day.
“You’ve got to relish this. You can crumble under it and fear it – or you can absolutely embrace it. That’s what I intend to do.”
FOUR THINGS THAT NEED FIXING
Rangers’ failure to get out of the Championship highlighted the failure of re-signing the likes of Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd. With 11 players out of contract, Warburton will have a fresh slate. But the scouting department was among the hardest hit by liquidation and Warburton will need to make use of his contacts south of the border.
Murray Park cost £14 million to build but returns from the youth academy have been scant. Alan Hutton was sold to Tottenham for £9million seven years ago, but no other graduate has moved on for a significant sum. Stuart McCall showed there were decent youngsters at the club as he handed Andy Murdoch and Tom Walsh chances to shine but Warburton will have to rebuild a youth set-up that has underperformed for too long.
STYLE OF PLAY
Rangers’ performances over the last three years rarely peaked above dire. Things did improve slightly when McCall took over but if chairman Dave King wants to fulfil his aim of selling out the club’s season tickets, Warburton will have to put a team out playing attractive football.
If Warburton thinks leading Brentford will have prepared him for life as Rangers boss, he is in for a rude awakening.
The Rangers support will demand nothing short of success and the other half of the city will be ready to pounce on his every mistake.
King has declared he will spend “whatever it takes” to get Rangers promoted but that will only have heaped extra pressure on Warburton.