Mark Warburton to block national call-ups at Ibrox

Gedion Zelalem making his debut for Rangers. Picture: SNS Group
Gedion Zelalem making his debut for Rangers. Picture: SNS Group
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CONFLICT between club and international football has taken an interesting twist at Rangers, with manager Mark Warburton admitting he negotiated with national associations not to choose his players, writes Lindsay Herron.

A week on from saying that he would look to postpone this Saturday’s fixture with Raith Rovers if the requisite number – three – of his squad were called up by their nations, he revealed that he effectively blocked this happening.

Warburton would not reveal which call-ups he prevented, but it is likely he had talks with England over Nathan Oduwa and Dominic Ball’s non-inclusion in their under-20s friendly with the Czech Republic on 7 September. However, Gedion Zelalem, pictured, is joining the United States under-23 side after the Raith game for the friendly against Qatar under-21s at Bury on 8 September.

Warburton wants to maintain momentum and insists it has nothing to do with Hibs utilising the rule to postpone their game at Falkirk.

Warburton said: “I stopped a couple. Well ... not stopped a couple ... but we worked with the various associations. Right now we have a fully-fit squad, all available for us. It is just about getting the balance right, looking at the games programme and finding where players’ development benefit most – playing in games for Rangers or in a friendly fixture, that sort of arrangement.

“We will always have dialogue with the association and the player himself and make sure we reach the right conclusion.

“It is a variety of associations that have spoken to us. Between now and the next break in October, different boys will go away. It might well change come the next break.

“We just want to keep on. This sounds bad but it is not about other individual teams. It is about us, how we go about our business.

“If we go about our business well, do what we want to achieve, it doesn’t matter what happens behind us. That has got to be our aim. Our only focus is Rangers Football Club.”

Rangers can make it eight wins in a row today if they beat Queen of the South at Palmerston and, having been drawn against St Johnstone in the last 16 of the League Cup, there is an excitement among their supporters about how they will fare.

Indeed, there are some who would relish a crack at Celtic in the not-too-distant future but Warburton was keen to offer some realism on that subject. He said: “We met as a group of players and a staff on June 27. We are in August. We have been together for a matter of few weeks. We are far from the finished article.”