I write this article three weeks since Mark Warburton, Davie Weir and Frank McParland left our club. A lot has been written already in the media but also on social media and fan boards. What I would like to do is take a different look at the 'Warburton era' and what positives our club can take from this given we are supposed to be days (or even hours) away from appointing his successor.
Firstly let me say that I was a big fan of Warburton to begin with. Obviously things have subsequently been alleged regarding his behaviour behind the scenes which make me similarly glad he has now left. But I don't want to go over old ground and will try to stay positive.
I have been of the mind that Rangers have been stuck in a 1980s mindset for far too long. We simply refused to move with the times and even David Murray struggled to see the benefits of spending money with one eye on the longer term. Indeed, despite the obvious current issues that has caused, I still feel a big portion of our support still see our club in this light. They want a sugar daddy who will throw millions at transfers to buy our way out of trouble. While we have stayed with this mentality other clubs have overtaken us and I include Celtic in that. Advocaat pushed for Auchenhowie but how many players have Rangers really benefited from over the years? Yes we could say guys like Alan Hutton, Ross McCormack, Charlie Adam all went on to have decent careers, but certainly not with us. Even in recent times, Jimmy Sinclair seemed to make a hash of choosing which players to develop and which players to release.
This brings me to Mark Warburton and our current setup. I feel the penny has finally dropped that we can no longer buy our way out of trouble. We have to set foundations that will last for decades after this board have gone, and after whatever manager/coach has left going forward. I think Warburton was the first step in this vision even if it didn't work our latterly.
For the first time I can remember (I am 31) we had a manager talking about analysis, about nutrition, about using Auchenhowie as more than just a training facility but as a proper academy where all age levels play the same style and can achieve progression to the first team. I honestly believe that last season we played some fantastic football, the type we hadn't seen since the team Dick Advocaat spent tens of millions of pounds on.
Of course Warburton had his faults: he was too loyal to the players from last season, he was too set in his system, he was too set on his substitution timings and, it seems, he was far too trusting in Frank McParland as well. Arguably, these decisions would of cost him his job regardless if he was speaking to other clubs behind our back. Quite simply progress on the pitch wasn't happening.
However, let's look at what legacy he has left. We now have an academy which within 18 months has went from an underfunded shambles to, in my opinion, one of the best in Scotland. You just need to look at the various age levels of our National youth teams to see Rangers players throughout. Of course Warburton did not do all this himself and Craig Mulholland was a big part of this.
We also now have a culture in our dressing room that is that fitting of a modern football team. No longer do we have pizza and crisps served in the canteen, table tennis tournaments and boozy karaoke nights after embarrassing defeats. We now have daily hydration tests and sports science which has been badly missing for various reasons. I would also say we have a style of play that is at a level which is as far away from the long ball stuff we witnessed under Walter Smith and Ally McCoist.
I maintain the style Warburton was attempting to play with us was the correct way, he just didn't have the players with the ability, which was due to his loyalties with these guys he has known for years. Also the lack of a Plan B was worrying considering all his subs were like for like. That is something which will trouble us until the next transfer window opens and ultimately would have cost the manager his job. Warburton's Rangers career ended on a sour note. The job was maybe too big for him with the expectation of the fans perhaps not in line with what he appreciated.
In the next week we should have a new Head Coach and a new Director of Football, again something that many modern (and successful) football clubs have. Football is a different game from even ten years ago: a manager can no longer keep an eye on every single department from scouting, first team needs, youth teams, analysis, medical requirements, nutrition, sports science, contacts etc. This is where a Director of Football is useful. He looks after the general footballing operation while the Head Coach does what he is employed to do - coach the first team.
We need someone who is modern thinking and ambitious, which is why if we can get Ross Wilson I will be very impressed. The alumni of players who have went through the Falkirk academy is very impressive. He was a major player in setting this up, also being head-hunted by Southampton you must have something about you. Hopefully he sees a job at Rangers as a project which will end with us being top of the Scottish game and back in the Champions League. Time will tell on that. Paul Mitchell at Spurs is also highly thought of in the English game and he'd be another good option.
I've also read a lot of fans turning their nose up at Pedro Caixinha for Head Coach - odds-on favourite with the bookies at the time of writing - because he is unknown. I am not going to pretend I know much about the guy but again the mentality of some fans that 'Rangers men' or people we know from watching English football should be preferred candidates is exactly where we have failed in previous years. Guys like Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp all had to be given a chance to begin with. Even Sir Alex had to start somewhere.
Caixinha has gone from a coach, to an assistant, to a manager in his own right so has definitely done his apprenticeship in the game, an 18 year apprenticeship at that. Every coach is a gamble but surely someone outside the box, with some protection from a Director of Football, may indeed turn out to be a master-stroke. Just remember he will be employed as a first team coach, not an old school manager who controlled the whole club with an iron fist like was the norm in the 1980s.
In closing, there's no doubt in my mind Rangers needed to modernise as a club. In that sense, the Warburton era may have ended in acrimony but hopefully in future years we'll be able to look back and see just how important his time here was in a transitional sense.
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