RANGERS manager Mark Warburton has poured fresh scorn on Alan Stubbs’ latest verbal jab at the Ibrox club, insisting his Christmas shopping is worrying him more than any comments made by his Hibs counterpart.
Ahead of Monday’s highly-anticipated top of the table Championship showdown between the clubs in Glasgow, Stubbs had accused Warburton and his players of being “in denial” over the growing strength and threat of Hibs’ title challenge.
Having enjoyed an eight-point lead earlier in the season, Rangers have dropped ten points in their last six league games. Hibs, with nine wins and a draw from their last ten games, have now drawn level on points and only trail Rangers on goal difference.
But Warbrton has again ridiculed Stubbs’ claims that Rangers’ mindset has changed and they are now concerned by Hibs’ form in the race for automatic promotion to the Premiership.
“My concern is not having got the wife a Christmas present yet,” said Warburton. “That’s a major concern. I’m getting away quick this afternoon into town. That’s my only crisis I am dealing with.
“Do I know what I’m buying her? As we say down south, not a Scooby. That’s a crisis. She checks the credit card balance, so it’ll have to be expensive.” Asked if he actually relished the mind games Stubbs has been determined to engage in with him this season, Warburton was equally dismissive.
“I’m not sure it’s mind games,” he replied. “It’s more amateur psychology Level 1, or whatever you want to call it. If I was 20-years-old, then maybe I’d enjoy it. But I’ve had a different background and if you can’t deal with so-called mind games, then you shouldn’t be doing this job. Everyone is different. If everyone was the same, this world would be a very boring place. So I’ll never talk to you guys about another team. It has to be about my team here at Rangers.
“It’s a big club with big expectations and I only want to talk about Rangers. I’m manager here, so that’s what I should be talking about. It’s a subject I have some knowledge of. Not massive, but some. I work with the players every day to be better and hopefully produce a good performance in the next game.”
Stubbs also described Monday’s fixture as a “free shot” for his team and claimed Ibrox is not a psychologically intimidating venue to visit.
Warburton has no issues with that approach and accepts the responsibility lies with his players to meet the demands which will be placed upon them by the home support in a sold-out stadium.
“When I came to Ibrox on my first day, I walked around the place before my press conference,” he reflected. “All I could think was that if I was an opposing player coming here, then I would be playing on the best surface, in a magnificent stadium, not expecting to win.
“What a great combination that is – it inspires the opposition. They have said in the last three or four years that certain teams came to Ibrox and didn’t have the fear factor. You can see why. What have they got to lose?
“If they get battered, they go away and say ‘well, we expected that anyway’. If not, people refer to it as having a free shot at it. Rangers have to deal with that, our players have to deal with that.
“One of the staff said to me recently that even if we played Barcelona at Ibrox on Monday, the fans would expect us to win. It’s an example of the expectation here. We have to deal with being at a club with a magnificent history and we have to restore the club to its former glories.”
Warburton is currently facing levels of scrutiny from supporters and media alike which are in sharp contrast to anything he experienced in his previous job in charge of Brentford. But he says he will embrace the intensity of focus placed upon him.
“It is a goldfish bowl here and I understand that,” he added. “If you bemoan the situation, then you’re in the wrong job. When you come to this, either as a player, coach or manager, you know what’s involved.
“I spent some time out in Madrid and Barcelona and they are similar to Glasgow in having so much media content which needs filled every day. If a Real Madrid player goes for lunch and eats a mushroom pizza, it fills column inches.
“People talk about how well they are paid at the big Premier League clubs in England, but look at the spotlight on them? It’s constant. But if you don’t enjoy it, you’re in the wrong job.”
Warburton will have on-loan Arsenal midfielder Gedion Zelalem available again on Monday after the 18-year-old missed last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Falkirk with a minor knock.
Longer-term injury absentees Cammy Bell and David Templeton, meanwhile, are making progress as they bid to earn a place in Warburton’s plans for the second half of the season.
“Cammy has been back out in full training for the first time and it’s great to see him back,” said Warburton. “‘Temps’ is probably another two weeks away. Nicky Law came back last week, so we’ve got options and variety in our squad.”