Imagine the scene. It’s 2004 and you are a 42-year-old trader in the City. You have a comfortable lifestyle, happy marriage and children. To the outside world everything seems great. Others might even envy your success, but you feel it differently. You enjoy your job, but it’s a job. You feel the call of football like a vocation. One day a big trade comes in and you catch yourself drawing a passing drill on the back of a bit of paper. You realise where your heart lies. You make the decision and you go home to tell your wife you are giving yourself a ten-year deadline to go from nobody to someone in professional football. And you do it. It is courageous. It is inspirational, and it is Mark Warburton.
Warburton started his stop-start football life at Leicester City. His best friend was Neil McClintock, the son of Frank. They played in football teams together as youngsters, and when the senior McClintock became manager of Leicester City, Warburton was asked to join the club on an apprenticeship. He lived in one of the club’s boarding lodges and was loving it until a Rangers great turned up. Three months after Warburton joined, McClintock left and Jock Wallace arrived. This had a negative effect on the young player. There are the famous stories of Wallace taking Rangers players to the sand dunes of Gullane until they puked. They bring laughter and fond memories to former players and fans, but such techniques didn’t impress Warburton. In 2013, he said, “I went from loving every minute of being a footballer, to hating it. Suffice to say, despite his having huge success in Scotland with Rangers, I found his methods to be against everything I enjoyed about the game.” A year later in an interview with The Telegraph he expanded on his dislike for Wallace’s style: “At Leicester, we had Jock Wallace, a legend at Rangers, but not for me as a manager. He was a Marine. We had runs on sand-dunes, running until we threw up. I learned a lot from that, never treating a player that way.” It didn’t work out and he left Leicester to join Enfield. He played as a right-back, then moved to Boreham Wood before a cruciate knee ligament injury ended his playing days.
Football was not to be his future - at least not yet – so he had to find a career. In a stroke of good fortune his mum noticed a job advert looking for a ‘competitive individual, good with numbers.’ Warburton was no slouch and was good at maths. He applied and became a trader in the City of London. Over time his responsibilities increased. He was a currency dealer for The Bank of America, AIG and RBS. For two decades he awoke at 4:32am, left the house at 4:52am and caught the 05:02am train into Liverpool Street to start work at 5:45 am. He usually didn’t get home at until 7pm and even then would take phone-calls throughout the night. He adds, “It changed as I got more senior, the amounts of turnover increased, the level of responsibility increased, the risk increased. I worked with some really good people, managers and colleagues. You learn a lot from them. As a junior, I was working in ones, two and three million. Then suddenly 10, 20, 30 million. Then suddenly a whole new world opens up. It is a lot of risk reward and responsibility, but you thrive on it.”
He had some time working in Carolina and Chicago in the US, and although not qualified, helped coach young footballers. But a hobby was not enough. He wanted more. He wanted to make a career in football coaching and decided to go for it. He realised at 42 he had to be bold and do it, or give up the dream. He recalls telling his wife Liz, “‘we have the money in the bank, the house is paid for, our lifestyle won’t change. I want to do this: 10 years to achieve something in the game. It’s now or never.”
He’s always keen to emphasise how hard it was: “I do get frustrated when people paint a rosy picture of leaving the City and doing a few exams and then finding yourself in full-time football. It didn't work that way. It was a massive risk and probably wasn't very realistic of me. I started right at the bottom at Watford, coaching kids, pumping up footballs and filling the minibus up. Sean Dyche [Burnley manager] was a youth-team coach with me and we were ferrying boys around and across London for two hours and back. Stuck on the M25 for hours [or] sorting out a flat. It was hard work. [There was] nothing romantic about it.”
It doesn’t matter who you support or what you think of Warburton, his choice was impressive. How many people - even those younger - give up on what they want to achieve because they lack the courage and self-belief? It’s easy to look back with perfect hindsight and see it as inevitable, but it wasn’t. Although he had a background in lower-level football, he was starting from the bottom rung of the football ladder. How many would be too scared to tell their family and risk ridicule from their friends and colleagues? The one thing which would help Warburton is his incredible work ethic. While most managers would baulk at getting up at 6am, Warburton is starting work at 6am. Another is his self-belief. Business magnate Henry Ford is reported to have said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right.” Most people think they can’t - so they don’t. Warburton thought he could - and he did.
He didn’t quit his job as a trader straight away. He had a period where he was still working while gaining his UEFA qualifications and coaching at a school. He also spent his own money travelling around Europe looking at best practice with clubs such as Inter, Sporting Lisbon, Valencia, Barcelona, Ajax and Willem II. He kept everything he could, including training exercises and education timetables. “I was getting up for work in the city very early in the morning, and going straight to Clement Danes School in Watford, getting home at half past ten. It was tough but I had to work through the transition period of getting out of the city, and Watford asked me to go full time, and that was the move back into professional football.” He coached the under-9s through to under-19s and helped build links with the school Harefield Academy.
It was here Warburton started to get anxious and wondered if he had made the correct decision. “There were times when I was filling the minibus with petrol and pumping up a bag of balls and I thought, ‘I’ve taken a 95 per cent pay cut, I must be mad, what am I doing?’” His wife Liz, whom Warburton describes as ‘Irish with a fiery temper’ wondered the same. Warburton continues, “She thought I was better than that and I had to explain to her that I had to come through the other side. In the City she knew that I would leave home at 5am and get home after 8pm but Saturday and Sunday was our time together. In football, it’s seven days a week and that was the biggest shock for her. I was doing as many hours as when I was in the City but for one 10th of the pay packet.” In 2006, Warburton received a “bolt out of the blue” phone call from Watford boss Aidy Boothroyd. He assumed they were cutting costs and he would be sacked. In fact, he was asked if he would become the Watford Academy manager.
But it wasn’t a clear progression. Life has a habit of putting obstacles in the way, and in 2009 Watford had a reshuffle of the Academy and Warburton was effectively demoted to assistant Academy manager for 17 to 19-year-olds. He left the club a year later. As could be expected there was tension behind the scenes. In 2014, Warburton explained: “I had a fall out with one or two people. I was treated very shabbily but they have gone now so I've got no grudges against the club. I worked with some very talented people like Aidy Boothroyd, Malky Mackay, Sean Dyche and Brendan Rodgers. After leaving Watford we set up the NextGen Series and then I came and started working at Brentford. Everything happens for a reason and I'm very happy how things have turned out.”
Creating the NextGen youth tournament and moving to Brentford
The NextGen Series from 2011 to 2013, was an invitation-only tournament. It was created by Mark Warburton, TV producer Justin Andrews and Matthew Benham, a professional gambler who had his own spread-betting company and who soon became owner of Brentford FC. It was an under-19 tournament which featured some of Europe’s best clubs - and Celtic. Others included, Ajax, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona. There was a realisation that for many clubs there was a huge gap between youth football and the top level. Young players needed a transition tournament to help them adjust. It was a successful concept - too successful. UEFA decided to kill it by launching their own ‘UEFA Youth League’.
Compromise was sought but there was no surprise when UEFA decide to go it alone. Writing in an Independent article titled, ‘Brilliant NextGen series sadly sidelined in favour of Uefa Youth Cup’, Ian Herbert noted, “There were hardly gasps of open astonishment when Uefa rejected that plan and opted to reinforce the European status quo with a tournament for which the 32 Champions League competitors will take Under-19 teams along for the ride, regardless of their ability. The inevitability of the outcome stemmed from the fact that NextGen was beginning to ask some searching questions of Uefa. The tournament’s £8 family tickets were enabling fans to see excellent young players in elite stadiums under floodlights. Scheduling around first-team matches was tricky but not insurmountable, Andrews and Warburton found. There were crowds of 20,000 at some NextGen games – more than on some Thursday nights in the Europa League.”
Although it didn’t financially succeed, it was another learning moment from Warburton. He may not have liked the overt discipline of Jock Wallace, but he is still a big believer in a quieter, personal discipline. He was impressed the way Barcelona teach their youth: “Barcelona’s players turned up at Celtic for a NextGen game, got off the coach, no headphones on, and got the kit off the coach. After the game, they asked for a broom and left the changing room swept. When they left the restaurant, it was immaculate.” This chimes with the quiet way Warburton goes about his business. On the outside he is humble and respectful, but there is no doubt there is overwhelming confidence inside. Self-respect comes first. Only then can you do your job properly. He adds that this is not always the case in the UK: “One English team turned up to play Barcelona in the NextGen and three of their players were 10 minutes late to go training. The lady at Barcelona said to me: ‘This would never happen at Barcelona. The coach leaves. If we are leaving at 9am, the coach leaves at 8.59. Don’t care who it is, you have to be there.’ That’s Barcelona. They have so many things right. People say: ‘look at their players, their training drills’. No, look at their manners, respect and code of conduct and then you get what Barcelona is all about.’’
During the NextGen Series Warburton went back to coaching. In February 2011, he was asked to be interim first-team coach. Brentford manager Andy Scott was sacked, and striker Nicky Forster took over as player-manager. Warburton found out by a call from Matthew Benham who he knew from the NextGen project. Benham wanted someone on the coaching staff he could rely on. Warburton recalls, “Andy Scott left the club and I got a call from the owner at 1:30 in the morning asking if I would come in to assist Nicky. I didn't know a lot about Brentford or know any of the players, so I stayed up for the rest of the night looking at player profiles. Nicky was still a player then and hadn't done any coaching, so those five months was me coaching and Nicky managing.”
In June, Warburton became Brentford’s Sporting Director after unsuccessfully applying for manager. His responsibilities included player recruitment and overseeing the Brentford Academy. The main job went to Uwe Rosler, and because both applied for the same job there was an initial awkwardness. Warburton was at a hotel near Wembley, and was asked by Matthew Benham to meet Rosler. The Englishman did his best to reassure the German the decision was made and there would be no issues. Interestingly, Matthew Bentham later said, “When Andy Scott left the club in February 2011 I really wanted someone to be my man on the inside. Mark went in as assistant to a player-coach, Nicky Forster. At the end of the season we wanted to appoint a full-time manager and both applied. There was an awful lot of resistance to Mark from people within the club. There's maybe something Marmite about him. He had an untraditional background for football.”
It was as Sporting Director that Warburton’s professionalism really shone through. While the young Rangers players were mocked as the ‘Nando’s Generation’ for openly tweeting their love of fast food, Warburton was ensuring his young players ate properly. As he said in 2013, “Food was a key one, and [we had] to make sure that was right. You cannot talk of a culture of excellence, if the guys are going off to McDonald’s on the way home.”
When asked why a manager needed a Sporting Director to help them succeed, he responded with, “Agents.” He also added that the total workload for any manager had increased in other areas, especially training. “If you look at what a manager does now compared to a few years ago”, he said, “the workload truly is significantly different. “When I was a young apprentice at Leicester City, I’m sure the coach would write his session on the back of a fag packet two minutes before they stepped out.” Times had changed and every member of a football club had more of a burden than 10 to 20 years before. He added as an example, “This morning I met an agent at Heathrow at 7.30am, another one appeared for a 9.00am meet, I did a report on a young player, and in truth it is the type of work that Uwe [Rosler] simply cannot fit in to what is already a manic schedule. I do not think that you can combine both roles and still be confident if the quality of your work.”
One wonders if he still feels this way as a manager. He was to find out within a few years. His manager, Uwe Rosler, left Brentford to join Wigan. The German offered him the chance to follow him, but Warburton desperately wanted the hot-seat. On 10 December 2013, Mark Warburton, the one-time trader from Enfield, reached his goal in managing a football club in the professional game when he took over at Brentford. He revealed the decision to choose Uwe Rosler as Brentford manager had bothered him: “I was disappointed and annoyed when I didn't get the job, and I don't think I could have taken being rejected again. I was invited to apply, and If I hadn't [got the manager’s job] I would just have stayed as sporting director.” He moved swiftly to get the backroom team he wanted. Close working relationships were important to him, and he had to have his “fingerprint” on the staff rather than working with who was there. That meant former Rangers coach Alan Kernaghan, who was assistant to Rosler, and first-team coach Peter Farrell were let go. Warburton brought in former Rangers captain David Weir as his new assistant manager. Former Liverpool academy boss Frank McParland became his Sporting Director.
Warburton soon won his first ‘Manager of the Month’ for December, and it took to the 22 February the next year for him to lose in a 3-0 defeat at home to Wolves. It was a close management team, and in their first season as boss, they led Brentford to promotion from League One to the Championship. With results going their way elsewhere, a 1-0 win over Preston at Griffin Park on 18 April was enough. They solidified second-place behind Watford. The exuberance led to a pitch invasion of celebrating fans, although the results had not yet come in. Brentford released a video of the players in the dressing room huddled over a radio waiting for final whistles. When they heard the good news, the scrum of players and staff roared with joy. Fittingly, two signs hanging over the dressing room can be seen. They say: ‘101% we don't ask for, but 99% is not good enough’ and ‘Anyone can talk, you have to walk’.
The relationship with Matthew Benham breaks down
When Brentford were promoted to the English Championship, it was the first time the club had reached the second-tier since 1992-93. The Bees fans loved Warburton and his approach to the game. He is reported to have said there is no Plan B, just do Plan A better. And that strategy was based on possession and attack. It paid off as he only lost three games in a row four times. His first game was a 90th minute winner over Oldham. Billy Grant of the ‘Beesotted Fan Network’ says of season 2014-15 in the Championship that, “we were the team with the highest number of goals scored in the last ten minutes. We scored over 20 goals in the last 10 minutes of matches and that epitomised exactly what Brentford were about. It's 'attack, attack, attack.' Every Brentford fan has said it's the most exciting football we have seen at the club. We used to get caught out on the break at times, but that's the style of football - score more goals than the opposition." By the summer Warburton signed a one-year rolling contract, while Weir and McParland also committed their future to the London club.
After a draw and defeat in the first two Championship matches, the Bees finally got a win in the third. A 2-1 away win at Blackpool. It started a great first half of the league campaign. The English Championship is a level above anything in Scotland, except maybe for Rangers (in normal times) and Celtic. Instead of Brentford being expected to fall back down the table they were sixth at the end of 2014, with 40 points from 24 matches. On the 10 November, Warburton was honoured by being chosen as the manager of the Football League’s ‘Team of the Week’. At the end of November, Brentford destroyed their old conquerors Wolves four-nil. The club had equalled a 75-year club record of five straight wins in the second-tier. Warburton duly won the November ‘Manager of the Month'. One of the judges, Paul Lowery of Sky Bet, said: “For me there was no other contender for this month’s award. Brentford have been breath-taking under Warburton during November.” In 2014, Brentford won 17 of 23 games at Griffin Park, losing only three times. Their 78% home win percentage was the best in any division of the Football League.
It was a proud record, for the manager and club. Everything was publicly going well in the new year until The Times newspaper published a bombshell article on the 10 February. The headline stunned Bees fans: ‘Brentford will sack Warburton despite promotion challenge’. It said:
“Mark Warburton, the Brentford manager, has been told that he will be dismissed at the end of the season -- even if he leads the west London club into football's top flight for the first time since the Second World War. The Times has learnt that the club's owner, Matthew Benham, has made it clear that he is determined to pursue a new direction despite Brentford's excellent progress under Warburton, who has taken them from Sky Bet League One to fourth place in the Championship. Tonight, they are at home to Watford, among their rivals for automatic promotion to the Premier League. Warburton discovered via the Spanish media last week that Brentford had held talks with Paco Jemez, the Rayo Vallecano coach, about the manager's job at Griffin Park. Sources in Spain have confirmed that a meeting between Benham, Cliff Crown, the Brentford chairman, and Jemez took place in Spain last week, with the former Deportivo La Coruna and Real Zaragoza centre back offered the chance to replace Warburton at the end of the season. Warburton sought clarification over the past few days and is understood to be in no doubt that he will be leaving at the end of the season.”
As can be imagined, there was confusion amongst the fans and interested observers. Brentford responded the same day to The Times article. It mentioned “rumours” and “gossip” but it didn’t deny Warburton and his staff would leave at the end of the season. It suspiciously spoke of Brentford being a “progressive club” who “consider novel strategic approaches to the game.” Supporters are not stupid. They could read between the lines and it was a poor response. Strangely, the statement said that, “The team’s performance has been magnificent this season and that is primarily down to Mark’s leadership.” While most people would agree, it seems bizarre that you would tamper with your primary achiever. Exactly one week later Brentford admitted The Times story was correct and, “Club Owner Matthew Benham has met with Sporting Director Frank McParland, Manager Mark Warburton and Assistant Manager David Weir and the Club has reached agreement on terms for their departure. The board, with Matthew’s approval, has made the decision that the trio will leave Brentford at the end of the 2014/15 season.”
It could be nothing, but how many clubs stating their manager and staff were leaving would place him second on the list? There is a danger of over-analysing, but it isn’t a natural thing for anyone to do. Warburton leaving was the story for the fans and journalists. As much as Frank McParland and David Weir were vital parts of the team, they weren’t the focus. It’s likely this was deliberate. Not as some petty dig, but because the new structure and ethos of the club was on taking the manager as much out of the picture as possible. As the same club statement told the Brentford support, “As part of a remodelling of the Club’s football management, a Head Coach will be appointed to work alongside a new Sporting Director. There will also be a new recruitment structure using a mixture of traditional scouting and other tools including mathematical modelling. As part of the new recruitment structure, the Head Coach will have a strong input in to the players brought in to the Club but not an absolute veto.”
Brentford were doing better than anyone imagined at the start of the season. Although a proud club, they had one of the smallest budgets in the league. How could someone who could possibly win two promotions in a row be axed? What was all this about mathematical modelling? The answer was owner Matthew Benham. Although he had brought Warburton to the club, and worked with him on the NextGen Series, he had his own ideas. Benham was a physics graduate from Oxford University. This is a subject which rests on mathematics. He became a trader, then set up smartodds, a company which uses statistics and mathematical models to advise customers on betting. And these customers aren’t putting on a ‘fun bet’. This isn’t about helping the guy with the bookie pen behind his ear hoping to get lucky with his £5 football coupon. This is big-money stuff.
It has made Benham a multi-millionaire and he has spent much of those millions on his club Brentford. Whether he is right or wrong in the long-term, one thing is sure. He isn’t a Craig Whyte or David Murray. He loves the Bees and is putting his money where it hurts. He also has a controlling share in Danish side FC Midtjylland. From his perspective, statistics and figures have made him wealthy and successful. Why would he give it up now to depend on Mark Warburton? Benham revealed his type of thinking when he spoke to Michael Calvin for the highly-rated book, The Nowhere Men. He told Calvin, “If I am looking at a striker I absolutely do not care about his goalscoring record. For me, the only thing that is interesting is how the team do collectively, offensively and defensively, within the context of an individual’s performance. I always thought Alan Shearer gave his team an amazing outlet. The team would be under pressure. You knew if you hoofed it in his general direction there’d be a high chance the ball would stick, and he’d win a foul. That’s the great defensive service Shearer is offering. The fact a front player can hold the ball up means you are not going to concede another attack. We’re working towards a new football model, we’re pretty far away. It is a computational issue.”
Whether Benham would have kept Warburton if he had accepted everything the owner wanted is irrelevant. The manager was not willing to stay at a club where he didn’t have the final say. As Warburton pointed out, “The emphasis is going slightly more to that mathematical model allied with the traditional scouting methods. That is what the club have chosen and I have to respect that. But if I disagree with something now then I would rather be honest than leave in six months and look back with regret.”
At the time of writing the Bees are missing Warburton. This doesn’t mean Benham won’t be correct in the long-term. FC Midtjylland won their first Danish Superliga in 2014-15, and are putting the Benham principles into action. All the evidence so far suggests analysis and statistics can give you an advantage, but it’s unlikely the human element will not continue to be the major factor. If you could then football and finances would be reliant solely on software and data. A laptop loaded with the latest mathematical models can’t take training. Statistics can't make a player more confident by having a good chat. Software can't rage at a strong personality and make them more determined. Ultimately, analysis can't even determine the future of the stock market because the 'animal spirits' of human emotion determine price more than facts.
Football analytics are great, and will improve the knowledge given to managers in the future, but it must be a tool for the manager to use; not the toolbox itself. No Joe Bloggs with the best statistics will ever beat someone like Sir Alex Ferguson. His knowledge, instinct, desire and aggression would always win. As Warburton said at Brentford, “My job is all about man management”. Or as Harry Redknapp once said to Southampton’s ‘Performance Analyst’ after a bad loss, “I'll tell you what, next week, why don't we get your computer to play against their computer and see who wins?”
As could be expected the Brentford team took a slight dip. And like children torn over two beloved parents, the Brentford fans chanted Warburton and Benham’s name at games. Warburton took the reins and Brentford recovered their form get to fifth in the Championship. The 3-0 home win over Wigan in the final game ensured a better goal difference over Ipswich and Wolves. The London club would now look forward to playing Middlesbrough in the first play-off tie. The end prize was the Premiership mega-jackpot. But it was not to be, and a 2-1 home defeat and a 3-0 loss away would see Mark Warburton leave disappointed, but proud of his achievements at Brentford. But he was still worried his perceived lack of experience would damage him. A week before the final game against Middlesbrough he said, “people see me as a risk. We finish at the end of May and we hope the phone rings.”
He should not have worried.
What attracted Warburton to Rangers and the qualities he'll offer to the club
By the first week of June 2015, Rangers still had no manager, but club director Paul Murray was telling the North American Rangers Supporters Association (NARSA) that someone would be in the hot-seat soon. Meanwhile the bookies had either slashed the odds on Mark Warburton coming North or suspended betting. On social media and football forums, there were posts telling anyone who would listen that it was a done deal. A week before it happened, bookmakers Paddy Power described Warburton getting the job as “an absolute shoo-in.” Within that week the Daily Record’s Keith Jackson said Burnley were interested and more seriously, Warburton was in talks with Fulham. With the latter club it was implied he was interested and awaiting an answer.
Whatever the truth, on 15 June 2015, Mark Warburton officially became manager of Rangers. Club legend David Weir followed him to become assistant manager. Both men signed a three-year deal. Warburton admitted it was a huge moment for him. It was the first time he had seen Ibrox and Auchenhowie. At his first press conference he told how he was impressed with the obvious history and tradition which comes through every part of the club. As he put it, “when you look at the Blue Room and the Trophy Room here, how can you not be inspired by that?” He added, “As a football supporter you know about the big clubs around the world. But Davie [Weir] spoke so passionately about Rangers and his experience and his knowledge of the club was really important. You get a real feel for it. Now this morning, seeing it for the first time, it is a real privilege. It's a magnificent stadium, a great venue, and our job is to come here and fill that stadium."
One of the biggest selling points was the fans, and it was a video of Rangers fans singing at Ibrox possibly the video of Ibrox before the 3-2 win against Celtic in 2012) which made Warburton realise what this great club was all about: “I have never been to an Old Firm game, but when I was thinking about the job my son showed me something on YouTube. Rangers fans singing their song at a Celtic match. James [Warburton] just said, 'Dad, look at this. You have to go there'. I had met with Rangers once already and was thinking things through but all the things in my head were moved to one side when I saw this footage. I had already had my appetite whetted from the interview, but the video blew me away. It was the nudge I needed.”
Another obvious factor was David Weir speaking about Rangers “every day” they were working at Brentford. Weir was a true blue and Warburton knew it could work for him. He said, “Davie [Weir] and I were coaching together at Brentford but Davie always spoke about Rangers. You could hear the passion in his voice; he talked about the club and what it could achieve. His knowledge of the game up here, his experience and his standing among the supporters and the people at the club is very important for us. Davie and I work very closely so I will lean on him a lot over the coming months.”
During his time at Rangers Weir won three league titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups. He was signed on a short-term contract after Walter Smith returned to Rangers in 2007. No-one expected anything more than an older player who would give his all to shore up a defence. Weir stayed for five years, eventually captaining the club and playing in the run to the 2008 UEFA Cup Final. He departed Rangers for Everton in early 2012 as a player/coach. The next year he joined Sheffield United as manager, but things didn’t turn out as well as he hoped. He was sacked after four months. Later in the year he joined Brentford as assistant to Warburton.
It’s fair to say he is adored by the Rangers fans. If one person encapsulates all that is good about the club, it is him. Speaking to RangersTV the Rangers Hall of Fame member and new assistant manager said: "It's really exciting to be back. It's not any secret that I grew up supporting Rangers. I had five really enjoyable and successful years as a player, and now to come back in another capacity is also great. I haven't been back for quite a while now, so I wondered what it was going to be like. You try and prepare for it, but when you come back in you remember how impressive the place is, and the memories do come flooding back. He spoke of himself and Warburton as a team and added, "We've both got to work really hard to try and get the club back to where it needs to be."
Mark Warburton couldn’t have a better partner in telling him what was expected. When asked what Weir said, the Englishman replied, “He told me many things, but one single thing? Recognise the expectation of supporters. Be aware of the expectation of where the club needs to be, where it should be. He has drilled that into me.” He admitted he would be lying if he was prepared for the Glasgow goldfish bowl, but he trusted the people around him. Included in that was the “fantastic” David Weir. He would be asking the Gers legend questions every day. David Weir also spoke of their relationship. When asked if he had any input on Warburton’s decision, he said, “I didn't have to persuade Mark he's his own man, and if he asks me a question I give him an honest answer. That's how we work and vice-versa. He's a man who makes his own decisions. I just help him with that where I can. Rangers doesn't need selling as a football club though. Everyone knows what it is capable of being, and also the history behind it, so there was no selling involved by me."
He knew about the recent troubles surrounding the club, but he had no issues as he got the right answers from the board, including a budget he believed would be enough. Weir would know about the local politics and who the board were now. This wasn’t guys who didn’t care for Rangers - these were fans. He could tell Warburton they could be trusted.
The Londoner was also asked if he had any doubts when Rangers failed to get promoted. “Not at all, he replied, “you look at the club and where it wants to go, where it needs to be, That’s the opportunity for us". The former trader understood value when he saw it. If anything, being in the Championship would make it easier for him to build the proper foundations. Taking Rangers from the doldrums to the very top would also look better than a possible mid-table struggle in the Premiership.
He wanted a “fortress” Ibrox again. He said, “we’re going to dictate to the opposition, in a very respectful way, and it’s about playing our way. It’s not about them, it’s about us. If we do what we can do well, we’ll win the game.”
Instead of worrying about the opposition and terrified to attack, he spoke the Rangers way. You be respectful to teams off the park, but on it you let them worry about you. And they will worry about the Rangers. That’s not arrogance, that’s just a fact. You don’t become a nation’s most successful club and not have others see the Royal Blue and feel the presence. Ally McCoist was a winner on the park. He wasn’t the cheeky chappy many think. He has a working-class steel to him, and can look after himself. Yet, for all his well-known positivity and determination in his playing days - his own team had fear of failure as their motto.
The comparison may not please Warburton, but it was back to the original Jock Wallace mentality. There’s a terrific clip still available on YouTube where Jock says, “I fancy us very strongly, we’ve got the battle fever on”. As we have seen, Warburton didn’t like Wallace’s methods, or speak like him. No-one would nowadays since he was of his time. Warburton joked, “I was standing there earlier when the photographer asked me to smile – I looked up and saw a picture of Jock on the wall looking down on me and thought: ‘No, I’d better be very careful.’” He added, “Firstly, I’m very respectful of what he achieved at this club. All jokes aside, I’m very respectful of a fantastic manager and player, but it was different for me then. And I learned from that. I learned at 17, 18, 19 years of age what I wanted to do in terms of coaching and dealing with people.”
Yet, if you listen to Warburton speak and read his interviews from the beginning, self-discipline and a positive mentality is always at the forefront. Even in the first press conference he brought it up. He said, “If you go to Barcelona, watch the way the players conduct themselves off the pitch. They are immaculate in everything they do. There are no earphones or mobile phones. Their appearance is important and they win matches before they step on the pitch. There is no reason why you can’t replicate that at the smallest club in the country. Hopefully at a club of Rangers’ stature, we can take a lot of those things on board. We want players who want to play for Rangers, who are passionate about the club. We ask them to work hard every day and it’s up to us to create an environment where they know that if they don’t work hard, they won’t get picked. Simple as that. Without that clear guideline, they have a problem. We will make demands of the players every single day they come into work.”
His language is always humble and respectful, but he gives his teams enormous self-belief and confidence. So did Wallace. They can only do that because they possessed those qualities. There couldn’t be more difference in the methodology of Wallace and Warburton, but the winning mentality is the same.
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