On February 10, Scottish football was rocked by the sudden announcement that Rangers had accepted the resignations of manager Mark Warburton, assistant manager David Weir, and head of recruitment Frank McParland.
A club statement claimed that the management team’s representatives had met with the club and advised them that they wished to resign from their respective positions. They had also requested that Rangers surrender their rights to substantial compensation; this meant that the trio would be able to join another club without the worry of Rangers claiming compensation.
However, this story took a confusing turn when Mark Warburton told the BBC that he had in fact not resigned and was unaware of where this story had come from. This sparked several theories from the press and public alike. From rumours of someone hacking into the Rangers official website and forging this club statement, to the claim that Mark Warburton and his team had handed in their resignations with the intention of taking another job, reportedly in the English Championship, which eventually fell through and so they were trying to crawl back to Rangers.
The following day, Rangers chairman Dave King released a statement that attempted to clarify the situation. King made the point that: “In order for us to achieve our ambitions we need employees that…will always put Rangers first”, which only supported the rumour that the management team had attempted to take a job elsewhere and failed.
Another crucial point to be taken from King’s statement is that £18 million of the estimated investment of £30 million required for Rangers’ ambitions to be achieved had already been put into the club. King admitted that, “we will, in all likelihood, invest more than £30 million before we are where we want to be.” This may cause some concern for Rangers fans as many will question the quality of that investment considering their majorly lacklustre performances in the league this season.
Mark Warburton leaves Rangers after 20 months in charge, having taken over in June 2015. In his first season he won promotion to the Scottish Premiership, winning the Championship by an 11-point margin, and they also lifted the Scottish Challenge Cup after beating Peterhead 4-0 at Hampden Park.
Rangers knocked Old Firm rivals Celtic out of the Scottish Cup on penalties in the semi-finals – a result that, despite not winning the competition, gave Rangers’ fans a great belief that they could challenge for the league title the following season.
Overall, Warburton won 54 of his 83 matches in charge but his team were often criticised for crumbling under the pressure of the big games.
Shockingly, Rangers only picked up four points out of a possible 30 in away games against the top four sides under Warburton in both the Premiership and the Championship – all of which came against Raith Rovers. Warburton’s final game at the helm proved to be a 1-1 draw at home to Ross County: a result that, at the time, left Rangers 27 points behind Celtic and, following defeats at Dundee and Inverness Caledonian Thistle after Warburton’s departure, this gap has since been extended.
Rangers must look at their long-term objectives but must also be sure to focus on the short-term. Any season where Rangers do not win the league title is disappointing but to not finish in the top two at least, considering their financial power, is a downright failure.
Similarly with Manchester United down south under Louis van Gaal, the ‘fear factor’ had been lost and teams had expected to take points from them. Under José Mourinho, this ‘fear factor’ has returned so perhaps Rangers should take a leaf out of United’s book: appoint a manager who has been there and done, as well as won, it all before in the Scottish game, and the one for whom fans are clamouring: Alex McLeish.
Image courtesy of Gordon.Milligan