Mark Warburton has insisted he can do no more to persuade the Rangers board of directors to offer new contracts to veteran duo Kenny Miller and Clint Hill.
Despite a firm recommendation from Warburton that both players are retained beyond the expiry of their current deals at the end of this season, striker Miller and central defender Hill both remain uncertain of their future at the Ibrox club.
Miller, 37, has arguably been Rangers’ leading performer this season and again underlined his value to the side last Saturday when his two late goals saw them come from behind to beat Motherwell 2-1 in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup. Hill, 38, was signed on a one-year contract last summer but he proved to be the most consistent and reliable central defender in Warburton’s squad.
The Rangers manager, pictured, attended a board meeting at Ibrox on Wednesday, at which chairman Dave King was believed to be present during one of his rare visits to Scotland from his home in South Africa. Warburton’s desire to retain the services of Miller and Hill was on the agenda, along with a potential new contract for 22-year-old winger Barrie McKay, who has just 18 months remaining on his current deal.
“We always make our feelings very clear in terms of performance,” said Warburton. “The younger players have peaks and troughs and the more senior players tend to be more consistent so we just make our recommendations to the board. Some players are performing very well.
“Look at the players, there’s not a lot more than they can do. Kenny’s timing last week was impeccable. All my staff and myself can do is give honest feedback about the way they work. I can’t speak highly enough about Kenny. Likewise, Barrie is a very, very talented young player who I think can go to the very highest levels of the game.
“Discussions I have with the players are private. I’m sorry but it has to be that way. It’s just a case that discussions are going on. Maybe there are other matters that are taking up the time. But as I say, from our point of view all I can say – and I apologise for repeating myself – is that I give honest feedback on the players. That’s all I can do. In those two or three players mentioned, the fact I pick them week in, week out tells you a lot about the players. We’ve got a squad of 21 players and I think Kenny has played 95 per cent of the games.
“Clint has probably played every other game since getting his fitness. Likewise Barrie. All I can say from my point of view is that we give feedback, we communicate, and the players have been outstanding for us. I’m sure there is dialogue going on. The way we work here, the agents have been in contact with the club. I’m obviously not going to divulge private information but I’m sure there is dialogue going on and Kenny and Clint are two very, very important squad members who I hope very much are here for the longer term.
“You look at consistency of performance. Sometimes with a senior player he might come in every six to eight weeks for an important game. He could play in away fixtures, using his experience, then he’s out again. But in the case of these two guys they’re playing week in, week out. All credit to them for that but it’s not by fluke. It’s by the amount of work they do every day, I watch them from the canteen, how they stretch, how they train. They’re outstanding. So it’s not a coincidence they’re playing at the level they’re playing at. So I hope very much, for Rangers’ sake, that they’re here for the long haul.”
Warburton insists the fact Miller and Hill are both in the late autumn of their playing careers should not be held against them in any consideration of their value to Rangers beyond this summer.
“At Rangers, we have a perfect example in David Weir,” he said of his assistant manager and former club captain who played first-team football until the age of 41. “The fact he is on the Hall of Fame board at Ibrox tells you that age is irrelevant if you are doing it on the pitch. You have to look after yourself and there undoubtedly comes a time when honesty is the best policy. We all want to play and star in the five-a-sides, saying ‘I’ve still got it’ when you clearly haven’t and actually lost it years ago. But David Weir showed you. To be leading the team at 40, 41 years of age was testament to how he looked after himself and how hard he worked. Kenny and Clint are of a very similar mould.”
Rangers return to Premiership action with a lunchtime trip to face Motherwell at Fir Park tomorrow. They will again be without striker Joe Garner but he is now back in training after damaging his shoulder against Celtic on Hogmanay and Warburton is hopeful he could be ready to return to action next week.