It was supposed to be all bells and whistles for the new-look, summer sections League Cup but the prospect of playing in the revamped, rebranded Betfred Cup draws only groans from Rangers manager Mark Warburton.
The Englishman, pictured, privately probably curses losing the Scottish Cup final for the fact it meant his side didn’t swerve the early stages of Scotland’s season-opening competition as much as anything else. Warburton, who will take his side to Charleston in the US this week for a 10-day pre-season training camp, considers the fact that the seeded groups have thrown up the toughest game first destroys any order to his preparations for a season expected to see his team mount a Premiership challenge.
He believes he will have no option but to field patchwork sides in a competition that is of crucial importance, with no major trophy having been housed at Ibrox since 2011.
“We face four games in nine days: July 16, 19, 22, 25. With the hardest one first. I just look at it and say any team would like to have probably a five or six-game pre-season game programme building up in quality and intensity to prepare you as best as possible for the season ahead. We are going to play Charleston Battery for a warm-up game [on 6 July] – and it is just 45 minutes for two separate 11s. And then the next game is Motherwell. I just find it, for us, far from ideal. I’m being very polite saying that. So you go high quality opposition, then you go down [to lower league sides] and then face Burnley on the 30th.
“Look at the actual details, as a squad of players in pre-season the idea is to try and get a six-week period. But when you have that many games it’s play, recover, play, recover, play, recover. There’s no work being done. You’re not doing style of play. You’re not working on tactical aspects or your specific parts of your game. Why four games in nine days? Who here thinks four games in nine days makes any sense at all when we haven’t played any game before that other than 45 minutes of football as part of a training game?
“And we talk about responsibility to the fans. I think a lot of these games are televised. Who wins from that? If these were four games over 18, 19 days, whatever, then I understand it. No problem at all. But the intensity of these games? If I put a Under-19, Under-20 side watch the reaction from the media, the authorities, from the fans.
“I’m sure I’m not the only one saying this. I hope very much I won’t be alone. I know I won’t be because managers have to look after their own clubs. I speak to my staff. I can’t change it, I don’t have the power to change it. I just want what’s best for Rangers.”