It is perhaps unusual that, having come from the competitive world of the London Stock Exchange, Mark Warburton would champion the ethos of collectiveness but it is paying dividends as he seeks to enhance the stock of Rangers today at Easter Road.
Victory will take Rangers 11 points clear of Hibernian and, even although there is two thirds of the season remaining, it would be a wild speculator who would bet against Warburton’s team going on to complete their mission of automatic promotion and a place in the Premiership.
There has been a relentless nature about Rangers since that extraordinary match in Leith in July when Hibs looked like making a statement of intent in the Petrofac Training Cup but finished up on the end of a 6-2 defeat.
Following that, the Ibrox men were swatting opponents aside in the Championship with ease and, even though games have been tighter latterly, they continue to prevail.
Is it down to work ethic? Warburton arrives at the Rangers Training Centre sometimes as early as 5.30am and there seems little doubt that his commitment rubs off on those around him.
He said: “The fact is we can’t make demands of the players and not make the same demand of ourselves. We can’t say to them ‘don’t be late’ and we’re late. We can’t say ‘dress well’ and we’re sloppy. It’s the same code of conduct for staff and players. We do it together.
“I’m sure if we lose a game of football at some point we will get some fair criticism. There are certain things you can’t control so look at things you can control; our work rate, commitment, attire.
“You control the controllables. If you do that we’ll be okay and the fans will help us. The worse thing in the world would be if you pay your money for your season ticket or your matchday ticket and a player isn’t trying. If that ever happens to one of my teams… it would never happen.
“We’re not shouters and screamers but if players aren’t doing what we want them to do then we don’t pick them. They wouldn’t expect to be picked.
“The moment we start doing that and showing a weakness as a group of players or staff then we will be on a downward spiral.
“Our job is to maintain the highest levels of standard and be better every day. And it sounds really corny and basic but it’s true. The best things are the simple things. And we need to make them better every day.”
In keeping with that mantra, Danny Wilson, last season’s Hearts captain, is unlikely to return to the team today such has been the form of Dominic Ball in his absence.
Warburton said: “Dom Ball has been excellent – could you drop him right now? He was frustrated after the Morton game as he didn’t come on and couldn’t work out why not. But the other guys had played at a good level in the rest of the games so why should I drop them?
“Then Danny got an injury, Dom came in and has done tremendously. He’s played three games now, two outstanding and one very good as a young 20-year-old. Danny’s job now is to get his shirt back. If he has to be patient he has to be patient.”
Wilson may be on the bench and he is liable to be joined by young striker Ryan Hardie, who has just signed a new two-year contract with Rangers on the basis that Warburton believes he can be a major player in the future. He said: “He scores goals. He’s tall, he’s quick. He’s got loads of development ahead of him and he’s got loads of work to do but he’s a real good prospect.
“I think [giving him a two-year deal] is the right thing to do. But if he continues his progress then within a year we’ll talk to him again anyway.
“Our job is to re-negotiate at the right time. Any club with a talented young player who is doing well – the moment he has to knock on the door and ask for a new deal then that’s when you have a problem.
“I think he can be a first pick in the Premiership. The danger is you keep looking outside of what you’ve got.
“I’m a Tottenham fan and you just look at the job the academy has done there – Harry Kane, Tom Carroll, Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb, and Alex Pritchard all coming through.
“Sometimes it’s too easy to look outside and say we have to recruit from overseas or down south. If Ryan Hardie is good enough then our job is to make sure he gets a chance here.”