The former Brentford boss is expected to be unveiled at a press conference at Ibrox this afternoon where he will set out his plans for rehabilitating a club diminished by years of financial mismanagement. David Weir, a former Rangers captain, is likely to be his assistant with the pair set to sign three-year contracts.
Their immediate goal will be to re-establish Rangers as a top-flight club after four seasons in the lower divisions. Promotion next season is imperative for the new management team, who will also be expected to bridge the considerable gap between themselves and Celtic.
Rangers’ failure to win the Premiership play-off final against Motherwell put paid to Stuart McCall’s hopes of continuing as Ibrox manager. McCall was considered for the post but Warburton and Weir were preferred for the work they did with Brentford, an unfashionable London club whom they took to the brink of the Premier League before losing in the play-offs.
Warburton inherits a group of players tainted by last season’s disappointment. Already, 11 have been released, including captain Lee McCulloch and fellow Scotland internationals Kris Boyd and Ian Black. The new manager will be expected to quickly identify transfer targets as Rangers begin large-scale restructuring.
Warburton has already been linked with a move for Lewis Macleod, the gifted young midfielder he signed for Brentford from Rangers.
Macleod flourished at Ibrox in the first half of last season but was sold for £1 million in January as Rangers desperately tried to keep the wolf from the door. Warburton’s reputation was forged during four and a half years at Griffin Park. He moved to Brentford as sporting director in 2011 but was appointed manager in December 2013.
He guided the team to promotion from League One to the Championship that season then followed it up by steering Brentford to their highest league position in 80 years when they finished the recently-ended campaign in fifth position, before losing in the play-off semi-finals to Middlesbrough.
Warburton quickly gained plaudits for Brentford’s style of football, using width and pace to beat teams in the division with far bigger budgets.
Steven Whittaker, the former Rangers defender, was impressed with the way Warburton and Weir set out their team when he played against them with Norwich City last season.
“Brentford impressed me a lot last year,” Whittaker said at the weekend. “For a team just promoted, they played some good football. I spoke to Davie [Weir] when we played them and he told me he’s enjoying working under the manager there. He’s enjoying his coaching and I’m sure they’ll make a good partnership at whatever club gets them.
“I think they would be a good fit for Rangers. Davie’s been there and knows the club, knows what it’s all about. With the style of football they play, I’m sure the fans will take to it as well. They want to play football and do it in the right way. They had the guys Jota and Alex Pritchard who hugged the touchline but, at times, came in and found pockets to play in. We found that hard to defend against at times.”
Warburton and Weir’s time at Brentford ended on a sour note. The club announced in February that the management team would be leaving at the end of the season as owner Matthew Benham sought a new direction.
Benham, a professional gambler, was reported to favour a recruitment policy which merged so-called “mathematical modelling” and statistics to more traditional scouting methods.
Warburton is unlikely to face the same level of interference at Rangers but does have a major job on his hands. The 52-year-old had a modest career as a player, failing to make the grade at Leicester City where he played under former Rangers manager Jock Wallace.
He then played for non-league sides Enfield and Boreham Wood before a spell in the United States. He cut his teeth in coaching with Watford before moving to Brentford.
Weir enjoyed an extraordinary Indian summer at Rangers where he won eight domestic trophies in four and a half seasons, playing into his 40s and helping the club reach the final of the 2008 Uefa Cup.
Weir, 44, began his coaching career with former club Everton before being appointed manager of Sheffield United in summer 2013. It proved to be a brief affair and Weir was sacked after just four months. He joined Brentford in December that year.