Mark Warburton happy with his '˜brave' Rangers signings

It has been a regularly repeated maxim of Mark Warburton's tenure at Ibrox that a manager must 'live or die' by his recruitment of players.

Mark Warburton says a f=great deal of thought went into the signing of Niko Kranjcar. Picture: John Devlin
Mark Warburton says a f=great deal of thought went into the signing of Niko Kranjcar. Picture: John Devlin

That phrase could be regarded as coming back to haunt Warburton as he grapples with the all-too-predictable grief currently being provided by the highest-profile signing of his time in charge of the Ibrox club so far.

But it is not only Joey Barton’s lacklustre performances, training ground bust-up and subsequent suspension which has raised significant questions over Warburton’s stewardship of Rangers on their, as yet, underwhelming return to the top flight of Scottish football.

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The age profile of last season’s Championship winning squad has been raised considerably with Barton one of five summer additions whose 30th birthday is behind them. Warburton’s quest to find the right balance of high-level experience and youthful energy has been unsuccessful in the opening weeks of a campaign in which Rangers have dropped nine points in their opening six Premiership games.

But, while former English Premier League performers such as Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjcar and Swiss defender Philippe Senderos have much to do to vindicate their presence at the club, Warburton is convinced of their worth both on and off the pitch.

“You have to be brave with your recruitment,” he said. “You can play very safe all the time, but if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got, as the old saying says.

“Niko is outstanding. He has got a wealth of experience and is someone the boys listen to. He is one of the most gifted players I’ve ever seen. Many others have said the same.

“Philippe has come in with a wealth of experience from Arsenal, Milan, Fulham and Aston Villa. He comes in and passes that on to the younger defenders. I want that mentoring role as well.

“When you bring those players in you hope that they impact the team with their own performances first of all. Second, you hope they have a mentoring impact on the younger players around them.

“There is a lot of thought goes into that. So you hope very much that the likes of Josh Windass and Jason Holt will be better players and better people for playing and training with someone like Niko.”

With Rangers having declared a code of silence over the Barton affair for the duration of his three-week suspension, announced yesterday, Warburton’s omission of his name in his list of mentors to his younger players was unsurprising.

The former Brentford manager made it clear, however, that he sees no need to remind the Ibrox squad of the disciplinary parameters he sets when it comes to a free and frank expression of views on the training pitch or in the dressing room.

“Not at all,” added Warburton. “I don’t know why I would have to. We trust our players. They are a great group of players and we are delighted with the respect they show. You can’t have one of the bedrocks of how you work in management and then change it. I really encourage opinion. I like opinion. During analysis, I don’t want people just sitting there. The normal situation with some is that you do ten minutes of analysis, players don’t say anything, you say ‘Thanks very much boys’ and they get up and go out. Not with this group.

“We work hard to improve levels of communication. I’ve said many times that the better quality of communication, the better we will be as a team.”

Warburton is currently under the most intense scrutiny of his 15 months as Rangers manager and can ill afford their current three-match winless run to be extended when they face Championship leaders Queen of the South in the quarter-finals of the Betfred Cup at Ibrox tonight. Despite operating in top-flight football for the first time in his coaching career this season, however, the former City of London trader believes he can equate the pressures to his previous profession.

“Being the manager of Rangers is a privilege and a unique challenge,” he said. “How many people get to hold this post? I recognise that privilege. But don’t underestimate what those guys [in the city] go through every day as well. I tell the players not to think football is a unique world. The only difference is that they ply their trade in front of 50,000. That’s the difference. If you look into it, every job offers a challenge. It’s about how you deal with it. There are always high points and low points. The key, with whatever job, is to stick together. As a team in the city, stick together. If we lost a load of money, we got together. You have to be better for adversity. If you struggle under it then you have a problem.

“Some people will laugh and certain people have mocked it, but I always look at the synergies. And there are so many synergies. I have said to the players many times to imagine a situation where a guy works for six months to make all of his year’s money. Then he loses it all in one day through no fault of his own, through some news coming out. Imagine that. Now he has to come in the following day. He now has six months to make a year’s money but how does he start? Does he rush in and try to make everything back in the first day or first week? Or does he go back to basics and start 
chipping away?

“That’s what we do. When you do things right and go back to basics, very often you find the money comes along quicker than you expected. When you have moments of adversity – and you will have them – you have to learn from them. Losing 5-1 away at Parkhead was a moment of adversity. Are we happy? Not at all. But we have to be better for it.

“We haven’t had the best start to the season. The pre-season was really good in terms of fitness but our games programme wasn’t that good. Did that have an impact? I don’t know. We have got to look at things like that and make sure we learn from it.

“Every game is a ‘must-win’ game, surely. It’s a League Cup quarter-final at Ibrox with the chance of a semi-final. Of course it’s a must-win game and we look forward to it very much. We know what we face. Queen of the South are a team very high on confidence after a great start to the season. They’ve got goalscorers 
in Derek Lyle and Stephen Dobbie.

“They will relish coming to a stadium like Ibrox. I’m sure most teams do. I can’t think of any teams who go into a game not looking to do something. It’s a great stadium, a magnificent pitch and they will be looking forward to it. But so will we.”