CLAIM and counterclaim have been rife about Fulham’s interest in Rangers manager Mark Warburton, and vice-versa. The 53-year-old Englishman’s unequivocal statement that he was “going nowhere”, though, offers grounds for optimism for Ibrox followers that their recruitment will continue to go somewhere.
It has been reported that, in an effort to cement the relationship with their manager of six months, the Championship club have nudged up his recruitment budget for January. The fact that he has succeeded in getting some sort of turn from all 11 players he brought to Rangers in the summer – either permanently or on loan – suggests Warburton has earned the trust of his board to invest such sums wisely.
“I hope so,” he said. “Please, I’m not saying it in an arrogant way but we got it right at Brentford as well. We picked up a number of players – the likes of [Jake] Bidwell, [Adam] Forshaw and [David] Button. James Tarkowski was less than £400,000, now valued at five or six million. Harlee Dean went for £5m to Hull, we paid one million for him.
“We’ve shown there’s value, shown we can work with players, as lots of managers and coaches do. Coming in to Rangers, what we have to do, quite rightly, was earn the trust and respect of the board. David [Weir, assistant] had that because of his playing career but we both had to prove we can put foundations in the football department to take it forward from where it was. That’s where we are now.”
Yet Warburton has set a standard it is almost impossible to maintain. And even though Rangers have harvested 40 points from a possible 45 in Scotland’s second tier, they haven’t been able to shake off Hibernian. The destination of the Championship is far from a foregone conclusion, which makes the January window – and the identify of the “one of two” experienced additions he is after – potentially crucial.
“We are lucky, a lot of good fortune comes into it but again the loan market is impacting. Young Gedion [Zelalem, on loan from Arsenal] at 18, played Saturday then Tuesday on a really heavy pitch at Ibrox in the past week. Nathan Oduwa [from Spurs] is only 19. Dom Ball [from Spurs] 20. At the moment he’s keeping Danny Wilson out of the side. Danny and Rob were outstanding and Dom waited for his chance, and at 20 years of age is showing a maturity way beyond his years. If you can get the loan market right, allied to your permanent signings, you’ll be in good shape.”