Mark Warburton has expressed his despair at what he regards as a harmfully negative mindset enveloping Scottish football.
The Rangers manager railed earlier this week against the reaction to his team’s 5-1 defeat in the opening Old Firm game of the season at Celtic Park, branding some of the media coverage as “mischievous” and “poisonous”.
Warburton added “malicious” to his lexicon of complaints yesterday but declined to go into any great detail over which specific reports or comments had upset him, despite being pressed to do so.
The 54-year-old insists he is not being overly sensitive to criticism but is struggling to make sense of what he believes is a dramatically different attitude to the game in Scotland than he was accustomed to in his homeland.
“I’m not thin-skinned, but sometimes I just find it so, so negative,” said Warburton. “It is ongoing, every day. I find the whole Scottish game is negative.
“For me, there is a bigger picture. I’m an Englishman in Scotland and it’s so negative. I watched the programme
Scotland’s Game on the BBC and I’m thinking ‘Bloody hell, it’s so depressing’. God know what it’s like for a Scot supporting your national team. I think it’s got to get better.
“I do think it’s a problem for Scottish football and I’m not the only one saying it, by the way. A lot of Scottish people who are my friends in the game tell me that’s why they live down south, because the negativity just hangs heavy up here. It does.
“Watch some of these programmes on TV and read some of the comments, they are unbelievably negative. I just see so much negative rhetoric.
“One of the comments I got this week was ‘go to your mates at Talksport for a positive outlook.’ Well, yeah, I’d rather have a positive outlook than a negative outlook all day long.
“Do I just sit here and say ‘Sod it, that’s just the way it is in Scotland’? Or do I speak my mind? I’m just saying that I like to be positive.”
Warburton accepts that Rangers’ performance and heavy defeat against Celtic was fair game for criticism but again took issue with the level and nature of it.
“We got beat 5-1, so we are not going to get rosy reports – of course we aren’t,” he added. “I’m not so foolish or naive to think that. There is no hiding place.
“The day after the game,
batter us. Quite rightly. Our supporters were agitated and upset, of course they were. When you are the manager of a big football club, you are not going to get any pats on the back after that. But I think some of the comments were unnecessary. I read one or two things which I thought were totally inappropriate.
“There were a number of things a couple of people wrote where I just thought ‘Why are you doing that?’ I just felt some of it was undeserved. I’m just speaking my mind.
“I’m not going to go into the details. I just felt some of them were unnecessary. I felt they were malicious, poisonous. It doesn’t matter, that’s just my opinion.
“All I was doing was being honest, I didn’t dig anyone out and say ‘he wrote that’. In
general, we quite rightly got battered in the press.”
Rangers were also on the receiving end of a withering assessment from Roy Keane during the Republic of Ireland assistant manager’s stint as a pundit on ITV’s Champions League highlights programme on Wednesday night.
Keane was dismissive of Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers’ claim in the aftermath of his team’s 7-0 defeat in Barcelona that their exertions in the weekend Old Firm match had an adverse effect on their performance in the Nou Camp.
Former Manchester United and Celtic midfielder Keane insisted that was no excuse as Rodgers’ side had faced “one of the worst Rangers teams I’ve seen for a long time”.
Warburton claims he is unconcerned by Keane’s remarks but believes Rodgers was justified in citing the Old Firm game as a factor in Celtic’s record European defeat.
“What do you want me to say?” said Warburton. “Did he [Keane] say after the Scottish Cup semi-final last season that it was one of the best Rangers teams he’d ever seen?
“Listen, he is Roy Keane and has had a fantastic career as a player and manager. It’s his opinion. Am I going to lose any sleep over it? Absolutely not. Likewise, he wouldn’t lose sleep over me commenting on A, B or C.
“What happened to Celtic the other night? The intensity of the Old Firm game for both teams took a lot out of them.
“The build-up to it, the game itself, the intensity of that from a football player’s perspective was huge. And it drained them. It drained both teams, and we didn’t have to have a game in midweek.
“It was a really significant game, it had a physical impact on the players, they’ve gone to Barcelona to face a team who are fresh off a 2-1 defeat and getting slated in their press.
“They have the return of Neymar, Suarez and Messi for the first time in 140-odd days, who then turn in a performance that was world-class.
“Now Celtic are not going to be happy about that level of defeat, no manager or coach would be, but looking at all the parts of the pie then it couldn’t get any worse.
“So don’t be negative and smash Celtic, how about just saying that there was a lot of pieces of the pie that made that result happen, it wasn’t just the fact it was Barcelona.”