Andy Halliday: Warburton should finish the job

Andy Halliday has revealed the Rangers players encountered an aspect of Mark Warburton’s character they had not previously witnessed when he offered a scathing assessment of their first-half display against Dumbarton at Ibrox on Tuesday night.

Mark Warburton shouts instructions during the win over Dumbarton. Picture: SNS Group
Mark Warburton shouts instructions during the win over Dumbarton. Picture: SNS Group

The episode has simply enforced Halliday’s belief that retaining the services of their English manager is the top priority for Rangers in their bid to reclaim a place at the top table of Scottish football.

The normally composed and mild-mannered Warburton had the desired effect with his interval rant as his team recovered from an insipid and goalless first half, powering their way to a 4-0 win which opened a three-point lead over Hibs at the top of the Championship. The victory came amid renewed speculation linking Warburton with the managerial vacancy at Fulham as bookmakers installed him as favourite to take charge at Craven Cottage.

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But Halliday is confident any overtures from the English Championship club will be resisted by the man he believes has made the biggest difference to Rangers’ form and fortunes so far this season.

“It’s majorly important that the manager stays,” said Halliday. “There were a lot of new faces coming in to the club in the summer and none more important than the gaffer. He’s come in and changed quite a lot of things, including the style of play on the park and the mentality of the boys.

“It would be a huge disappointment if he moved on, but to be honest I can’t see that happening. He came here and he knew he had a job to do and he knows he’s only got a small part of it done. I think he will stay for the duration and do what he has to do.

“The gaffer has touched on the size of Rangers in some of his recent interviews. I have seen a couple of clubs in England linked with him, but none of them is anywhere near as big as Rangers. At the end of the day I don’t think he will ever leave Rangers for a smaller club. I am not worried about it. I think he’ll be here for the duration.

“He was angry with us at half-time on Tuesday night and it’s probably a side that we’ve not seen from the gaffer before, to be honest. He was quite right, because the first half wasn’t good enough.

“There were a few words said by all of us at half time. We all knew what was at stake before the game – it was our game in hand and a chance to go three points clear at the top of the table.

“It was a big game for us and the performance in the first half wasn’t good enough, but we managed to put it right in the second half.”

It proved the ideal start for Rangers to a crucial month in the Championship title race which now sees them face Raith Rovers, Morton and Falkirk before the highly-anticipated visit of title rivals Hibs to Ibrox on 28 December.

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“It is a big month for us,” agreed Halliday. “But I feel that every month is a big month for us. Hibs are obviously on a really good run of form and they are right up our backsides just now. We just need to keep picking up the three points and that’s all we can do. We are looking forward to playing them on the 28th and only then can we start worrying about Hibs’ results.

“You can’t let yourself get away from the job in hand. As players, we just have to do what we do, train hard and gear up for this weekend’s trip to Kirkcaldy.”

Halliday completed Rangers’ eventual rout of Dumbarton when he netted their fourth goal from the penalty spot. It was a memorable moment for the 24-year-old boyhood Rangers fan as he took advantage of regular spot-kick taker Martyn Waghorn having been substituted to net his first goal for the club at Ibrox.

“I actually thought about it when Martyn went off,” said the former Livingston and Middlesbrough player. “It was 2-0 at the time and I was thinking to myself ‘I hope we get a penalty’ because it’s been a long time coming me getting my first goal at Ibrox and I was delighted I managed to tuck it away.

“It was very special for me. To be honest I felt pretty nervous before I took the penalty and I think that’s why I just put my foot through it.

“I just started to laugh about 20 seconds before the penalty, because I was so nervous, but I managed to stick it away and it was extra special to me because it was in front of the Copland Road Stand as well.”