MARK Hateley has hailed the early impact of Rangers’ new managerial team at the Ibrox club by claiming previous flaws in the preparation of the squad have been immediately addressed by Mark Warburton and David Weir.
In what many will regard as a thinly-veiled attack on former Rangers manager Ally McCoist’s regime, Hateley claims it is already obvious that major improvements have been implemented at the club’s Murray Park training ground.
It’s clear to see with what Mark and Davie have brought. It’s not rocket scienceMark Hateley
Former Rangers striker Hateley, now a club ambassador, watched Warburton’s side for the first time on Sunday as they defeated Peterhead 3-0 in the first round of the League Cup.
Speaking at yesterday’s second-round draw at Hampden, which handed Rangers a trip to face Airdrie, Hateley welcomed the progressive style of play introduced by Warburton which has been well received by the Ibrox club’s support so far. But Hateley feels the most telling difference is in the basic fitness levels of the players.
“That was the argument that brought the scratching of heads over Rangers last year,” said Hateley.
“You would have expected the team to be super-fit but they didn’t seem to be and were leggy late on in games. That can only be directed to one area and that is the training ground.
“You don’t have to look at what is happening in training, all you need to look at is what is happening on matchday.
“I have been in the game a long time and you can see from one performance what is happening in training during the week.
“It’s clear to see with what Mark and Davie have brought. With the fitness levels you can see straight away what is happening Monday to Friday. It’s not rocket science. If you train harder Monday to Friday, you’re going to be fitter on the Saturday. That’s the plain and simple facts of professional football.
“You put things into place so players know what they have to do. It goes up on the wall on a Monday – we’re doing this, we’re doing that each day.
“It’s the same throughout Europe and it’s been like that for as long as I can remember. That’s the way forward and it’s the way professional football clubs operate in the top leagues. That’s what Mark is too. He’s ultra professional. He had the same approach at Brentford. He and Davie will bring that with them.
“Davie is a professional through and through. You could always point the finger at Mark for not being at the level of football where Davie has been in his career. But the two working together – two very clever men – is a good recipe for the club going forwards.
“You can’t get away with a lack of fitness anywhere. A lack of fitness will always let you down somewhere down the line.
“Whatever sport you’re playing, especially when it’s a team game, you have to be fitter, faster, stronger, more aggressive than the bloke you’re playing against.
“If you’ve only got one of those then you’re slightly off kilter. If you’ve got all four it’ll be a stroll in the park for you.
“Fitness is a basic standard of any professional athlete. Once you’re fit everything else comes second nature. The ability you’ve got comes out.
“I go back to the days with Walter Smith and Archie Knox at Rangers. The hardest pre-season in my whole career ever was always at Rangers because of what was needed for the season, the fitness levels that were needed for 65 or 70 games a season. Davie knows more than anyone in that coaching set-up that fitness is paramount.
“It was refreshing to see a young, energetic Rangers side on Sunday. It is a team that will definitely get better. We saw it in fits and starts against Peterhead because on another day they could have scored five or six.
“I think all the fans are really encouraged at what they are seeing because they have a group of young guys who have come together in a clear direction that the manager and his assistant want them to play.
“Over the next dozen games you will see things going from pretty decent to good. I am looking forward to seeing the development of this squad and it is also looks like there will be another one or two additions before the close of the window.”
Hateley’s assessment of the work being carried out by Warburton was backed up by one of the club’s new recruits. Midfielder Andy Halliday says just one sub-standard training session last week was enough to provoke the manager’s ire.
“It was just a typical Friday training exercise with small-sided games, but even though it was a day or so before the game, that was no excuse to drop intensity,” said Halliday.
“So credit to the manager for sensing that. There were too many goals being conceded by both teams at both ends so he stopped the game. He brought that point up and we rectified it. He’s quite right because we can’t drop intensity at any time if we are to match the level we aim to be at.
“It’s an indication of his standards and the standards we should set ourselves. We want to be the best we can be and we have set ourselves high goals this year. One bad day in training is not good enough.
“I hope the fans buy into what we are trying to do. We have new players, new coaching staff and a new philosophy of football. It’s a complete overhaul from last season. Everyone has taken to it like a duck to water and as the quality in training has got better and better, we are replicating that in games.
“As a football player you are at your happiest when the ball is at your feet. We are trying to play that kind of football with passing and quick counter-attacks too. Even at defensive set pieces we sometimes leave two or three players up because when you do that you put doubts in other teams’ defenders’ minds in how to combat that.
“It’s just been really enjoyable. The training and intensity of it has been different class, it’s just a really exciting period. We want to get back to where we should be. It’s a fresh environment this year and I am just happy to be a part of it.”