Rangers’ crisis club reputation hampers bids to sign players
But the Rangers manager is confident this season’s success in winning promotion to the Premiership and the Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Celtic can finally shed them of that image and persuade higher quality players to sign on at Ibrox this summer.
The on-field progress achieved by Warburton in his first season in charge has come in tandem with a more stable environment off the pitch which he hopes will make them more attractive to potential transfer targets.
“There are a generation of younger players who have grown up thinking of Rangers being in financial trouble and administration,” said Warburton.
“The hardest job we have got is getting them even to come to Glasgow to speak to us, as bizarre as that might sound, because they have got this impression of the club in their minds.
“Once we can get them to the training ground and show them Ibrox, then it’s done. But this season, because we were in the Championship, some of them just didn’t want to play here.
“They question whether the league here is good enough. If they have got English Championship clubs after them, offering more money, then we have got a hard sell. But once we get them here, we can absolutely sell Rangers to them.
“It will be better now that we are going back into the Premiership. It is better after the Old Firm game. The beauty of that massive TV audience was that it gave Rangers a fantastic stage to show what we are about – the fans and the whole atmosphere.
“I think it did a world of good for Scottish football but it also helped us in terms of recruitment. We can say ‘this is what we are about, we want more of this and there will be a minimum of four of these Old Firm games next season’. Hopefully that really helps with recruitment.”
Warburton, however, recognises that the size of Rangers and their support will not be enough to convince some players to choose them ahead of relatively smaller English clubs with greater financial muscle.
“They are working men, don’t forget,” added Warburton. “I laugh when supporters talk about so and so being greedy. He is a working man. If he has got a wife and two kids and is offered ‘X’ in Scotland and three times that down south, what is he going to do?
“It is not greed, it is just looking after your family. We have to recognise that. If we lose a player because he is being paid three or four times the money, that is it. We can’t compete with that. They have got access to TV money that Scottish clubs, at the moment, haven’t got access to. So it is a recognition of that fact and move on. We are going to lose targets simply because of the fact that club X comes in and pays them three times what we can afford to pay.”
The former Brentford manager also accepts that he and his more successful players could attract interest from some of those bigger-spending English clubs if Rangers continue to progress.
“It happens to everyone,” he said. “I’m not disputing that fact. But any manager will only get touted for jobs if his players do well.
“So you’ve almost got a vicious circle. The players do well, they get linked to other clubs. Then the manager gets told he’s going somewhere. I was told five guys had me going to one club last week. It was news to me. But that’s just how the game works.
“Everyone involved is a working man. If one of our players with two young kids is offered that kind of money, it’s hard for them to say no.
“What we have to do, from Rangers’ perspective, if we lose one of our players is to make sure we lose them on our terms, in terms of the transfer fee. And if we lose out on a signing target, then make sure you have other options.”
Regardless of the market in which Rangers can afford to trade as they look to strengthen their squad for their return to top flight action, Warburton insists he will not compromise on the type of player he signs or the style of football he has adopted at the club.
“Someone on radio the other day said they wanted a 6ft 4in centre half who could head it and kick it and a 6ft 5ins centre forward who could head it in the goal,” he said.
“That’s not us and will never be us. As long as we are here, we will never play that way. We will keep playing our way and do what we have to do. We have to keep fine tuning it, find solutions and find better players. We will continue to improve our training, because we will find tough defences in the future. But I think we can go into next season full of confidence in our style of play. Our philosophy won’t change. We just have to be brighter with it and better at it.”