Mark Warburton dismisses Stubbs comments as ‘banter’

Mark Warburton, supervising a Rangers training session yesterday, insists there has been no focus on the challenge by Hibs. Picture: SNS Group
Mark Warburton, supervising a Rangers training session yesterday, insists there has been no focus on the challenge by Hibs. Picture: SNS Group
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RANGERS manager Mark Warburton has ridiculed claims from his Hibs counterpart Alan Stubbs that the Easter Road club’s recent form has got inside the heads of their Championship title rivals.

In the latest round of verbal sparring between the pair, Stubbs insisted earlier this week that Rangers are acutely aware of his team’s winning run which has cut the gap at the top of the table to just three points.

If they are mind games, then I think psychologists can retire and move on

Warburton on Stubbs

But as the eagerly-anticipated showdown between the sides at Ibrox on 28 December looms ever larger, Warburton has sarcastically dismissed Stubbs’ comments. “Yeah, I haven’t slept for weeks,” was Warburton’s response when quizzed about them yesterday.

“If they are mind games, then I think psychologists can retire and move on. Far from it, it’s just a bit of banter I’m sure.”

Asked if his players had discussed the challenge being posed to them by Hibs, who were eight points behind them at one stage of the campaign, he replied with a firm “No”.

“Seriously, there’s no fuss about it from our point of view,” he added. “Our focus is Rangers. All we are thinking about is Morton this Saturday. When we get that one of out of the way, we will move on from there.

“There is no point looking at a game on 28 December if we lose two games in the meantime. You just have to focus on your next opponent and hopefully getting three points with a good performance.

“Why would we (speak about Hibs)? I use that word respect and it is no lack of respect to any team. But our focus is here. If other teams want to talk about Rangers, fantastic.

“It doesn’t matter what Hibs do in the meantime. All you can focus on is your performance in the next game. The focus for us must be on Rangers.

“I’m sure Hibs and Falkirk and all these teams would say the same about themselves. We have to make sure we train and prepare well.

“That is where our focus is. If our training dips, then there is an inquest. But we have trained really well this week.

“With the game at Raith Rovers being cancelled last week, we are looking forward to the game against Morton and hopefully a packed Ibrox.”

While Warburton is primarily focused on maintaining Rangers’ advantage in the race for automatic promotion to the Scottish Premiership, he has expressed concern at the changes announced this week for the start of next season.

The Scottish Professional Football League’s revamp of the League Cup, which will now open the campaign with a group stage in mid-July, and reinstatement of a January winter break have been questioned by the former Brentford manager.

“I can understand why many people are supportive of it,” he said. “But it’s just my personal opinion that I don’t think it suits the bigger clubs.

“My ideal scenario for a pre-season would be to have six weeks with the players. It’s the most important time of the year in terms of bedding in ideas. Then you’d look to have an ever-increasing quality of pre-season game.

“You’d look to go to a lower-league team or non-league team, go out on tour and train hard with maybe one game at the next level.

“Then you’d come back and play maybe an English Championship team, before looking to play one English Premier League team and one top European team.

“So if the season started on, say, 9 August, the week before would be your last big challenge at Ibrox. That would be an ideal scenario.

“As I understand it, the League Cup is a round-robin where your last two group games could be against two significantly lower teams. I’m not sure how that fits into an ideal pre-season scenario. I applaud the fact they are looking to make some positive change, but I’m not sure it is designed for the elite level.

“If you are going to start the season earlier, you have to finish it earlier. If you are going to have a winter break, when do you finish the season?

“We have got ten fewer league fixtures here than there are in the English Championship, and four international breaks. I am a bit bemused when I hear about fixture congestion up here. The problem is looking at the size of the top division. In my opinion, the changes should be made there, but that’s a debate for another day.”