If the Scottish Cup semi-final win over Celtic was the stand-out result of Mark Warburton’s first season as Rangers manager, his team’s high water mark in terms of performance arguably came a round earlier.
The vibrant 4-0 win over Dundee at Ibrox in March delivered vindication of Warburton’s belief that his then Championship outfit already had Premiership quality.
As he prepares for his first-ever visit to Dens Park today, the Englishman is savouring the fresh test which will be provided by Paul Hartley’s early-season table toppers.
“We created a lot of chances that day against Dundee at Ibrox and I don’t think 4-0 flattered us,” reflected Warburton. “Even Paul said that after the game.
“A lot of teams come to Ibrox and try not to concede in the first 20 minutes, to try to prevent Rangers running the game. But we scored inside 20 seconds that day, Dundee’s game plan changed and we were good.
“Dundee had just had a good result in the league, drawing at Celtic Park, before that tie and a lot of people saw them as favourites against us. But I said at the time that the gap between the top of the Championship and the Premiership is nothing like it is in England.
“We got a lot of abuse after losing at home to St Johnstone in the League Cup earlier in the season, when people were talking about a gap. But I didn’t see it as a case of us having questions to answer against Dundee.
“We were playing well at the time, we were top of the league and in good shape. We put on a good performance, the crowd enjoyed it and the players enjoyed it. But it was just one game and we had to move on.
“We had another good performance in the semi-final against Celtic, but then lost the final, so we need to look at the bad points and learn from them as well.
“We are well aware that Dundee went to Ross County and got a good result in the first game of the season last week. They will be in a confident mood and they have got good quality players.
“I have never been to Dens Park but all I’ve been told is how it is a tough place to go. There is no doubt this will be a tough test for us. But we are in good form, good shape, the players are fit and our squad is strong. We are looking forward to the game.”
Having already dropped two points in their opening fixture at home to Hamilton Accies last Saturday, Warburton’s team are already under a degree of pressure to deliver a result which could back up their aspirations to provide a genuine title challenge to Celtic this season.
The Scottish champions have clicked into impressive form under Brendan Rodgers but Warburton insists he is both unsurprised and unfazed by his former Watford coaching colleague being afforded the resources to sign players such as £3.5 million winger Scott Sinclair.
“I know Brendan and he would not have gone in there without the reassurance that he can mould the squad as he sees fit,” said Warburton.
“That goes for any manager, so I’m not just talking about Brendan. Managers at his level need reassurances that they can put their fingerprint or their stamp on the squad. That’s what I think he’ll do. They’ll look to add one or two more as well, as will we.
“I’m looking forward to it, but we’re not misunderstanding the size of the challenge. We know about the quality of Celtic’s squad like we know the quality of Aberdeen and Hearts. But that’s why you come to Rangers.
“The board have backed us from day one. I think we surprised a few people with who we got in the summer and hopefully we can surprise people again with one or two more.
“Look at Jordan Rossiter at 19 years old. When you look at some of the fees being paid for players down south, we got great value there. The same with Joe Dodoo from Leicester City, a very talented player.”