Separating the reality from the many levels of hype – five at the last count – surrounding the Warburton Revolution is not easy, it has to be said.
Someone is earning their crust bigging up the new regime in the dugout and it is certainly whipping up a frenzy of expectation among the Rangers support – so much so that saner analysis than what passes for such on Rangers fan sites and certain compliant media outlets is regarded as heresy.
New recruit Rob Kiernan has been bigged up by Warburton himself and this is not unexpected since it is his signing. The problem for those with a more analytical approach is that Kiernan’s stats, like Warburton’s own, tell a different story than the hype. Kiernan’s career is littered with loan spells at such places as Burton Albion and Accrington Stanley. He has not actually played much senior football and, although his last stint was at Birmingham, there is some dispute over just how much the Blues actually wanted to hold on to Kiernan.
For all the hoopla, Warburton is a huge gamble for Rangers to take. His back story is interesting but it does not speak of a great deal of football experience and virtually none at the top level. This has been somehow spun as a positive and there is a lot of goodwill and wellwishing by fans toward Warbs as he is now known. There seems to be massive buy-in to the idea of Warburton i.e. the man who abandoned what was undountedly a very successfully and financially rewarding career to pursue his first love. It sounds like a great plot for a football movie. Maybe Warbs could be played by Robert Duvall…
My reference to stats has been poo-pood by those who have bought in to the romance. Ironically, it was Warburton’s own refusal to take a more statistically analytical approach to signings which some cite as the reason for his departure from Brentford – the “Moneyball” dispute. Such an approach may have seen Kiernan for one as a signing target to be avoided.
Rangers managers don’t get long honeymoons if indeed they get any at all. Warburton’s problem is that he has to assemble a side markedly superior to the one which failed so miserably last season. Yet this side will still include some of the flops who are perceived to have failed the club. So the new manager has to bring in enough players to form a team which is not only better than last year’s, it has to be better than the opposition Rangers will face in their second year as Championship contenders. A tall order for anybody.
Against this is the backdrop of the undoubted need for Rangers to sell season tickets. Many doubt that the club will sell anywhere near their target of 45,000 season tickets and it leaves those running the club with a huge dilemma: Do they push the boat out and try and build a squad which will incite the stay-aways to return? Or do they play safe and stick to a budget which will be modest but which will produce mediocrity?
If Warburton fails to build a squad which is better than last season, the fans will not bankroll the club. Yet if he does put together a decent group of players, there is still no guarantee this will be enticement enough to bring back the hordes of bluenoses who have effectively stopped following Rangers. On top of this, Warburton’s abilities as a manager and leader will be sorely tested in a very competitive league.
Of course, voicing these things doesn’t endear the skeptic to those who think the league will be won by Rangers “at a canter” and live in a wee bubble. Amazingly, that bubble has not yet burst for those who refuse to accept that Rangers as a club and team are at the level they deserve. They need to believe and that is understandable. They see Warburton as the man who will lead them out of the wilderness and back to their rightful place at the top table. Warburton may turn out to be that man and it would be churlish to resent him his chance to make his appointment a success.
Saner voices do prevail among the Rangers faithful and, although these fans would want success for the new manager, they refuse to buy in to the hype surrounding his appointment.
What really matters is how much Mark Warburton refuses to buy in to the hype. If he is half as strong-willed as he comes across, he will ignore the spinmeisters and media whores and just do his job. He will rise above the hoopla and just be the strong rock that a Rangers manager must always be, whether the wind and waves roar around him or the seas are calm. A great example for him would be the man he curiously – and hopefully not ominously – is said to have despised.
I am talking about Jock Wallace.
If Mark Warburton is looking for someone to emulate, he could do worse than the man who is supposed to have killed his love of the game.
No-one is asking “Warbs” to be Big Jock. That would be a tall order indeed. But managing Rangers will quickly show Mark Warburton the one undeniable fact about football management that separates the men from the pretenders:
You have to be as unbreakable as steel to manage a team like The Rangers.
Struth was such a man, as was Willie Waddell, Jock Wallace and Walter Smith. If Warbs is half the man in the dugout they were, he will do fine.
The signing of Danny Wilson could be the difference between success and failure. Wilson is, in my opinion, an outstanding player who will become a great. He could be Warburton’s Terry Butcher, a signing that takes the club to a new paradigm.
If signing Scott Allan is not just more hype and Warbs pulls his signing off, that could be another major pillar in rebuilding. Allan is an exciting player but needs to be coached into greater levels of consistency and to stop hiding in games.
For me, Warburton has it all to prove but clever football people say that recruitment is what separates the great from the mediocre in the dugout. The next few weeks should then be the first and perhaps greatest test of Mark Warburton as Rangers manager.
What is at stake is massive, perhaps the very future of the club itself.
No pressure, then…