There was a time when the mere notion of a Rangers manager leaving to join Fulham would have been stretching credulity.
These are very different days for the Ibrox club, of course, and the speculation which has so upset Mark Warburton this week is, whether he likes it or not, far more plausible.
While Fulham are certainly dwarfed by Rangers in terms of history and supporter base, the Craven Cottage outfit are operating in a far more lucrative financial environment.
If Warburton was open to the prospect of filling the current vacancy at Fulham, he could expect to enjoy a sizeable increase in salary.
But as the 53-year-old elaborated on his unhappiness at the manner in which the story linking him with the English Championship club has developed, he insisted he would not have joined Rangers in the first place had money been his motivation.
Warburton also dismissed any suggestions that a desire to move back to London, where his family still live, could tempt him to quit Rangers less than six months into the three-year contract he signed in June.
“Let’s be really clear, if it’s about money you don’t come north,” said the former Brentford manager. “I don’t mean that in a derogatory fashion, far from it. But the fact is the financial climate, as we all know, is healthier down south.
“So it’s not about that. I’ve made the move here and my family know that the decision to come to Rangers was a big one. They are down south and I haven’t seen them for four or five weeks now.
“I’m not going to turn tail after five months here and say I didn’t know what to expect. A lot of thought went into my decision to come to Rangers. It’s a big club, a great opportunity and a fantastic challenge.”
Warburton took to Twitter on Wednesday night to vent his frustration that his previous responses to questions about the Fulham job had done nothing to diminish the level of speculation over his status as a major candidate to fill it.
“I was advised to do that,” he revealed. “I’m a 53-year-old man, so Twitter is not something that comes easy to me, but I was told it was the appropriate medium to convey my message and it had the desired effect.
“I was talking about some media outlets who failed to show journalistic integrity to investigate or substantiate these stories. There were stories which came out on Wednesday night which suggested approaches had been made and added details which were totally inaccurate.
“Two weeks ago, when people said I had been linked with jobs, I said I was the Rangers manager. I was asked that question, by the BBC among others, I gave the same answer and then on Tuesday it was the same.
“I asked to be shown some respect. To do it again is malicious, inappropriate, whatever term you want to use. I think they are ignoring what I’ve been saying. I thought I had nipped it in the bud two weeks ago, then Saturday and then on Tuesday. On Wednesday I was forced to be stronger.”
In an effort to draw a line under the issue, Warburton gathered his staff and players for a meeting at Rangers’ training ground yesterday morning to inform them he has no intention of leaving the club. It was a level of assurance he felt was necessary, especially for the players he recruited during the summer to help his efforts to restore Rangers to the top flight of Scottish football.
“If you look at the team, David Weir and myself brought in a number of them – 11 came in at the start – and part of our environment here is to get them to commit to what we are doing,” added Warburton.
“We are asking them to buy into new ideas, into a new training regime, into discipline in the gym work and nutrition. We’re asking them to buy into it and to commit to what we are doing. And they have been outstanding. Their commitment has been first class – I can’t speak highly enough of them.
“For them then to then hear, five or six months in, all this speculation isn’t great. I’m not saying it will unsettle them because they are too strong characters for that. But they are young guys and they want to know what’s going on. They want clarity and I’ve been trying to give them clarity over the last two of weeks.
“So again this morning, David and I put it to bed straight away and they were happy with that. We spoke to the players and told them the truth because they read the same stuff that other people have to unfortunately read.
“The club’s board also know exactly where I am at. Again, I can’t do anything other than what I’ve already done and come out and quite clearly state my situation. I’ve committed myself to the club and I am very thankful to be here. I can’t do any more.
“Rangers is huge. It’s a huge club with a huge history and we have got a significant challenge ahead of us, but we know what it is. We’ve made good progress in six months and we need to make sure we maintain that rate of progress. Our targets this season are very clear and then once we have achieved them, we will have a very active May, June and July period to prepare the squad for the next challenge at the next level.
“I’m driven to meet this challenge here. It’s easy to say we know where Rangers have to get to, the expectations we speak about. Rangers need to be at the top of Scottish football. That’s the challenge we all speak about and there are a lot of clubs, quite naturally, trying to stop us doing that. Our job is to do everything we can to achieve those ambitions. If we do it, then fantastic.”