RANGERS manager Mark Warburton was not surprised by the criticism he and his players received in the wake of their 3-1 home defeat by St Johnstone in the League Cup on Tuesday but he clearly believes that opprobrium has been as excessive as the praise previously lavished on them for their feats in Scottish football’s second tier.
He is hoping that it will be back to business as usual when the Championship leaders face Morton at Cappielow tomorrow but, while willing to reflect on the first reverse of his tenure at Ibrox, he was also quick to defend himself and his squad.
Warburton is an affable individual but he appeared exasperated at times over what he perceived to be the negative slant of the questioning and, as a counter balance to that, claimed that his side are not far away from being able to match Premiership champions Celtic.
“We made three mistakes on Tuesday,” he said. “For the first goal the cross shouldn’t come in, for the second the set-up at the corner wasn’t as we had always practised and the third one just shouldn’t happen.
“Danny Wilson would be the first to say that but he’s been outstanding all season. He and the other lads have been great but they’ll learn from these errors.
“We all do it. I can pick the wrong team or have the wrong training session. We have an open forum here and if the training session is poor then they can say: ‘That was awful’ – I have no problem with that.
“The only way you learn is through making mistakes and we’ve learned more from Tuesday. We were angry and frustrated that we’ve lost a game of football but we move forward.”
When it was suggested that Tuesday’s result suggests that Rangers are a long, long way from being able to compete with Ronny Deila’s side, he could not have disagreed more.
“I wouldn’t agree with the use of five ‘longs’ – and I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way,” he said. “You can say we are miles away from them. I don’t think so. I’ve just been asked [by the broadcast media] whether I can restore our confidence and belief.
“We’d won eleven out of eleven before Tuesday and we’re now top of the league so I don’t think that confidence is something that needs to be restored.
“We are in good shape right now. But we have got to learn. If we play on Sunday and the following week and the week after and make the same errors then it is a different discussion, that is for sure.
“But that can’t be allowed to happen. That is our job as a squad of players and a group of staff. We’ve got to make sure we learn from it.”
Warburton also revealed that he has not given up hope of signing John Eustace and suggested that, even if the veteran cannot prove he is fit enough to earn a contract as a player, he may appoint him to the coaching staff.
Eustace, 36 in November, has not kicked a ball in anger since sustaining a knee injury playing for Derby County, was first identified as a signing target in June and has spent the last three months at Murray Park, attempting to achieve optimum fitness.
“John is a really honest pro,” said Warburton. “If he thought there were any doubts we would have a frank discussion. At the end of the day, it’s not a gentleman’s club, it is a business and we have to do what’s right.
“I very much hope it will happen. John is in the gym, I just walked past him there. He’s working tirelessly. I have no doubts about the quality he will bring to us.”