Former Rangers manager Alex McLeish believes the Joey Barton saga will be keeping current boss Mark Warburton awake at night.
The Englishman has endured the toughest 10 days of his Ibrox reign so far, with last week’s Old Firm mauling at Celtic Park leading into the bust-up with Barton which now threatens the midfielder’s future in Glasgow.
McLeish knows the pressure Warburton is under following his own five-year stint as Rangers manager, and can sympathise.
Barton was on Monday handed a three-week suspension following a heated row with Warburton and team-mate Andy Halliday in the wake of the derby loss, and the former Manchester City, Newcastle and QPR battler is now also facing a gambling probe after it was alleged he had bet on Celtic to lose heavily in last week’s Champions League clash with Barcelona.
It is the last thing the manager needs as he seeks to kick-start the club’s lacklustre start to Ladbrokes Premiership season, and McLeish says it is only normal for the incumbent of the Ibrox hotseat to feel the strain.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s clash between Rangers and his former club Aberdeen the ex-Scotland boss said: “Joey is being dealt with. We don’t know much about what is going to happen so we can only speculate.
“I can’t second guess what will happen. Is he going to leave Rangers or will it make him even more determined to be come a pivotal figure for the club this season? We will need to wait and see.
“I don’t know how Mark is handling it. I’ve not had the privilege of seeing how he works up close. But as a manager you always have sleepless nights - it wouldn’t be natural if you didn’t.
“It’s part of Mark’s education as a football coach. It’s a part which you don’t foresee but you know at some stage you’re going to have some problems to deal with.
“He’s a smart man and I think we’ll see the consequences of how he deals with it in the coming weeks.”
Barton admitted he “overstepped the mark” with some of his comments during a training-ground debrief but also insisted he had “nothing to apologise for” after defending his right to critique his colleagues.
But McLeish reckons Warburton is right to take a firm line with a player who appears to be uncontrollable.
Asked how he would have handled the situation, he replied: “When I was at the club we handed out books laying out how we expected Rangers players to behave and the traditions of the club. We had club rules and club values.
“It’s not every club that will hand out a book, but you still as a coach and a manager have principles.
“From Mark’s point of view, he’s got to preserve the name of Rangers Football Club. I think he will do everything he can to make sure Rangers are not harmed by this situation.”