With the end of the transfer window approaching and Rangers’ business almost done, we should be able to look back on this summer as a significant leap forward for the club. Joe Garner, Niko Kranjcar and Jordan Rossiter have been among some hugely impressive signings, but perhaps the biggest surprise was Joey Barton.
We spoke to Michael Calvin, who has previously written about the work of Mark Warburton and Frank McParland in his book on football scouting, The Nowhere Men. Clavin is co-writer of Barton’s upcoming autobiography, No Nonsense, so we spoke to him to understand more about how our recruitment works, and to find out more about Frank McParland and what brought Barton up to Ibrox.
GTBFO: Joey Barton was one of a number of players, including Jordan Rossiter and Joe Dodoo, who turned down the opportunity to play in the Premier League to come to Rangers. Has the pulling potential Mark Warburton, David Weir and Frank McParland have been able to wield in this window surprised you?
MC: The signings aren’t surprising in terms of the fit. Jordan Rossiter is a very good young player who would probably get a higher profile playing an instrumental role in Rangers re-establishing themselves at the top of Scottish football than playing twenty games a season for Stoke. The hallmark of how Frank McParland operates can be seen in his acquisition of Josh Windass from Accrington Stanley - an exceptional talent who will do very well. He does have a pattern to a degree - he has a reputation, coming from the academy recruitment background. He was instrumental at Liverpool in bringing in people like Raheem Stirling, he has a great eye for a young player and a very good network of contacts.
It depends on the individual. Is the individual looking for something bigger than himself? With Joe as an example, he had an obvious respect for Frank McParland - he was instrumental in him going to Burnley. What attracted him wasn’t Frank in isolation, but the nature of the team and his attitude towards the management. He likes Warburton as someone who has a broader view of football and management, a huge respect for David Weir as a player and a coach, and he trusts Frank in that area too.
GTBFO: So it was a combination of things that attracted Joey Barton? He’s had a slow but steady start so far…
MC: What got Joey Barton was that he was taken in by the class of the club too - the tradition, the way they conducted themselves in the transfer, the people Warburton has around him. David Weir really was important too - Joe really has a huge respect for him.
It’ll be an interesting one. Joe’s natural inclination is to lead. He will become an increasingly influential figure in the dressing room if he’s not already. The book will surprise people, with the depth of preparation that he has and the intelligence of his application. That will be one of the best things about Rangers going forward.
He’s nowhere near match fit yet - you start so early in Scotland it’s ridiculous! He must be approaching it now, but it will take a while. When Joe joined Burnley towards the end of the window last year, Dyche gave him a month to get himself fit, which is probably the mature way of doing it. He’ll grow into it at Rangers, as will the team.
GTBFO: Yeah, Kranjcar looks even more off the pace, although he’s getting there too...
MC: If Kranjcar’s at 80% he’ll absolutely piss that league.
GTBFO: He’s been one of our most impressive signings too. The speed at which Warburton has been able to assemble such a squad has been so impressive, although he has been quite reliant on players he knows and the English market, despite his repeated comments about the problem with wages down there. Do you think that will always be typical of how he operates?
MC: It’s natural to a degree. All managers do that to some extent. The money is significant. Barton took a big, big cut to go to Rangers because he believed in the idea and that it would benefit him longer-term. It’s in his character to rise to any new challenges that come along. Particularly the madhouse of the Old Firm - he’s looking forward to that.
Frank does have very good contacts in Southern Europe, in Spain and Portugal, so I wondered whether players would come over from there, particularly at youth level, but it doesn’t seem to have happened. But the fit, there’s no surprise. Rossiter is a classic Scottish player, even though he’s a Scouser.
As for the money, in England now, it has gone beyond absurd. It was best put to me by Sean Dyche, who worked with Frank at Burnley. He said that normally at the top end of the Premier League there would be life-changing money. The first long-term contract for four years, if the kid was sensible (and many aren’t), he would have a degree of financial security for the rest of his life. But the scary part now is that that money is now available in the Championship, where there are players on 30, 40 grand a week. There is no way on earth the Rangers wage structure can accommodate that - that’s the disparity that they’re having to combat. Celtic have got more money, although they’re still doing something similar, with Rodgers going for Kolo Toure and Scott Sinclair.
But you have seen how they’re able to offer people more than just money. You see it with Clint Hill as well. He will be able to contribute an enormous amount over the season - not as a regular starter, but somebody who knows the game inside out, in all its harshness and pressure. He’s another typical, shrewd signing. Looking at him as past his best is the tip of the iceberg. He’ll be very good with young kids coming through. This is not a one-hit season for the management team - they are building something for the long term.
Thanks to Michael Calvin, who you can follow on Twitter. Joey Barton’s autobiography, No Nonsense, is out on September 22nd, and looks to be a must-read for all Rangers fans.
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