NEW Rangers manager Mark Warburton has revealed he would have turned down the job at Ibrox if the directors had failed to convince him the club’s off-the-field problems will not have a negative impact on his tenure.
Warburton signed a three-year contract at Rangers yesterday and he will be assisted by David Weir, the club’s former captain who was his right-hand man for the last 18 months at Brentford.
The 52-year-old becomes the first Englishman to manage Rangers and the 15th man to hold the role, replacing Stuart McCall who was also interviewed for the post at the end of his period in interim charge.
During the recruitment process, Warburton asked as many questions as he answered and was satisfied by the assurances he was given regarding his budget for new players and the overall financial condition of Rangers.
More than three years after suffering insolvency, Rangers still face considerable challenges off the pitch as new chairman Dave King attempts to restore their fortunes against the backdrop of the ongoing issues presented by Sports Direct’s controversial retail deal with the club.
But Warburton, a former city trader, insists both he and Weir were left fully satisfied at the strategy being mapped out by King and his fellow directors.
“I think any football follower is aware of what has happened at Rangers,” said Warburton. “There have been some challenges at the club, for sure, and David Weir has kept me updated. So I’m well aware of it.
“They are the questions we asked when we met with the club. We had to ask the right questions – and we got the answers we wanted to hear.
“Our job is to produce a team that excites the fans. That drives the commercial side of the club and brings health to the whole community around the club, hopefully.
“We got positive responses to the questions we asked the directors. Of course, those conversations are very private. But, if we hadn’t got the assurances, it wouldn’t be right for us to take a job that we thought was inappropriate. We were absolutely given the assurance we wanted regarding the playing budget, or else we wouldn’t have taken the opportunity.
“But, at the same time, our job is to make sure we bring to the club players who are good for the club, they have to represent that value.
“I’m not just talking about the balance sheet, but how they conduct their business and how they deal with fans. At Brentford, if you had one of those days when you couldn’t hit a barn door from five feet but still gave 100 per cent effort, the fans will accept you. Nothing changes here.”
South Africa-based businessman King, who was not in attendance at Warburton’s unveiling to the media, has stressed that Rangers must win promotion back to the top flight next season in the wake of their failure in the play-offs this year.
With 11 out of contract players having been released by the club, Warburton’s immediate priority is to reshape the first-team squad ahead of their first competitive fixture of the new campaign on 25 July.
“The timetable is to be the best we can possibly be in the shortest period of time,” added Warburton.
“If I sit here and say we’re going to rush out and get 12 players, even if they’re not the right players, just to satisfy people, that’s not the right thing to do. If we get players who add value, that brings performances.
“It’s about bringing in young players who bring value. I’m sorry for repeating myself but that’s really important to me and David. It’s about players who add value not just on the pitch. You get a bad egg or bad apple in the dressing room, you’ve got a real problem. We will build our foundation on a unity and a work ethic.
“It could be an issue to persuade some players to come to Scotland. But I’ve been to a lot of football clubs with big grounds and you can’t help but be hugely impressed by what you see at Rangers.
“The training ground, the history of the club, that is our selling point. If you want to be part of this, the club is on stable ground now – and we have a very positive, very ambitious outlook. If you want to be part of this, climb on board. If not, fine.”
Rangers director Paul Murray, who led the recruitment process for the new manager, repeated King’s assertion from last week that no specific financial constraints would be placed on Warburton as he looks to revitalise the club on the pitch.
“I know it may seem strange but there is no budget,” said Murray. “We are working with Mark and David to make the club competitive as quickly as possible. Dave King said last week that there was no upper limit. There is no lower limit.
“But we obviously have a rough idea of where we are. That is not to say that we are going to go and blow money and do some of the things done in the past. It will be a very careful and considerate process and we want to try and get value for money.
“There are no guarantees in football but we are going to try and make good decisions. There is no point rushing into a bunch of contracts that we will then live to regret in two months’ time. We will assess the squad with Mark and David and then go and get those players. There is a lot of hard work to do but we are relaxed about the time we have got.
“We spoke to a small number of candidates for the job. We talked a lot about Rangers and how it is important to return the core values that have been missing, from my point of view, in the last couple of years.
“David particularly embodies that, the same as John Greig does, the spirit and value system we want to try to have at the club. What Mark offers is a really progressive and interesting look at a modern football club. The combination is really compelling.
“I know for a fact that Mark had other options down south. He was actually joking that David spent the last couple of years telling him how big a club Rangers is.
“Even after everything that has happened in the last couple of years, it is still a massive club with massive potential. I feel we are at a real moment in time for Scottish football, not just Rangers, where we can move this club forward.”