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Warburton: Rangers must, and will, do better after Old Firm

Celtic v Rangers - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images

Mark Warburton appeared before the media today for his pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday’s Premiership fixture with Ross County and insisted his side must, and will, do better than they have so far this season as well as taking aim at the media coverage of the game in Scotland and the negativity which surrounds our national sport.

Last weekend’s defeat to Celtic was, understandebly, high on the agenda and Warburton was quizzed on his sides response to the defeat and what lessons had been learned, saying:

“We’ve trained well, I’m not understating the importance of the result, don’t get me wrong for one second, but no-one’s died. We just need to get on with it. I keep getting asked if we’re okay, of course we’re okay. They (the players) are pro footballers and we (coaches) are professional people within the game. From that point of view we had t come in, study the game, analyse it like any other and train well with the focus being on Ross County. The result was one that hurt so many people, none more than us, but we just have to get on with it.

“I thought we lacked an intensity to our play in terms of pressing the game, so we wanted to train this week at a good tempo, a high quality and really focused and it has been. I’m delighted with that. The reaction from the players has been very positive so we know we face a tough test against a well-organised, high-quality Ross County team. Jim has superbly managed them so we know what we face but we’ve had a good week of training.

“We weren’t good enough as a group. Not just players but the staff. We just weren’t good enough and we’ve got to do better but we won’t just sit and mope around. The attitude has got to be that we learn from that and we’ve got to do better. The only way you get better is to work harder. You look at what we do well like dominating the football and you work harder at that. Every technical drill, every tactical drill, every physical drill. Everything. Be better. Work harder. That’s what we’ve got to do and the fans have to be reassured that is what we will do.

When asked about the media coverage, and his comments to Rangers TV about ‘poisionous’ press in Scotland, following the Old Firm defeat Warburton didn’t hold back in his response. Declining to go into details about specific examples, he said:

“I felt some of the comments were inappropriate. The whole media aspect is so negative. I’m an Englishman working in Scotland and I find it depressing. Some of the programmes I see on TV are so negative. One of the comments that irritated me was “go to your friends at TalkSport for a positive outlook”. I’d rather have a positive outlook. I’m not going to say we enjoy losing a game of football but I’d rather have a positive outlook on football, in general, than a negative one and it seems that too many aspects of the Scottish media are negative and it would be good for the game if we were a little more positive when the situation arises.

Certain statements made annoyed the manager and one in particular was referenced to highlight the continually negative reporting towards him and his side, adding:

“I’m told it’s part of the culture. I cannot understand it. I heard TalkSport say before Saturday that it had been a “good start to the season, unbeaten and things are shaping up well”. The Scottish version was “they’ve just drawn with Kilmarnock. Disaster”. It’s two completely different perspectives on the game. There’s a programme on TV at the moment (Scotland’s Game on BBC) and I find it negative. I’m an Englishman, what must the Scottish be thinking about it? We’re never going to enjoy defeat, far from it, but we have to move on. It’s about the next game now and we need to show the supporters how much we care and we can improve. I just think that the negative coverage is incredible.

“It’s a job in progress; we’re only five games in. Judge us at the end of the season. Right now some of the comments are inapproporiate but we do what we do. We’re hurting from Saturday but we’ve worked hard all week.

When asked if the defeat to Celtic could prompt Warburton to ditch his well-established attacking policy, the manager was bullish, saying:

“Why are we changing? What are we changing? If you look at us the last few weeks we’ve had a two and a one (in midfield), we’ve had a diamond, we’ve narrowed up on top so we’ve made various tweaks. People refer to my statement last year that “Plan B is just doing Plan A better” and I’ve watched some of the best teams in the world retain their shape but tweak it within so I’m not going to sit here and say what we;ve done. If you watch us close you’ll see what we’ve done but we’ll always be attacking.

The decision to replace the injured Rob Kiernan with Harry Forrester at while trailing 3-1 brought criticism and when asked if he would make the same change Warburton was adamant he would although the Senderos’ red card minutes later changed everything, explaining:

“You’re 3-1 and you’ve got three at the back. We had Philippe (Senderos), Lee (Wallace) and James (Tavernier) and what I couldn’t allow for was a man being sent off. Hindsight’s a marvellous thing. Had we known that I wouldn’t have made that change and I wouldn’t have ended up with two midfielders at the back. At 3-1 I can’t stand up in front of the Rangers fans and say we’re happy to take a 3-1 loss. Someone like Harry Forester has got the ability to come on and change the game. You get a goal and you’re 3-2 with 10 minutes to play then you can maybe try nick something from the game. I couldn’t contol going down to ten men though and at that point we had a real mountain to climb.

As is normal for a press conference involving the Rangers manger, the subject was turned to matters which don’t, directly, involve Rangers. When asked if Celtic’s 7-0 thumping in the Nou Camp highlighted an increasing gap between Scottish sides and the rest of Europe Warburton

“It’s not for me to talk about another team, ie another Glasgow team or another SPFL team. The story there should have been how intense was the Old Firm game? Celtic and Rangers had a very significant game at Parkhead. It took a lot out of both teams They emerged victorious but it took a lot out of them both physically and mentally. I’m sure both sets of players, and staff, will say that. They then had to travel to Spain, take on one of the best teams in the world, who are smarting from a 2-1 loss at home to Alaves, and for the first time in 140-odd days or something have Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar available together. It’s just more pieces going wrong. I’m the Rangers manager but anyone in football would tell you, that’s a horrible equation coming together and in two minutes you saw how good they were going to be. The story for me was how intense was the Old Firm?

With two vital league games sandwiching a Betfred Cup tie with Queen of the South was clear he was only looking at the next game and there was no special focus on next weekend’s trip to Pittodrie, saying:

“I’ve no doubts about the quality of the squad. I’m not even looking at the League cup. The only focus is Ross County. There’s no point even looking at Aberdeen. We don’t get any more points for beating them. Celtic don’t get five points for beating Rangers and we won’t for beating Aberdeen or vice versa. It’s three points per game and the only focus is Ross County

With Philippe Senderos’ suspension ruling him out of making his Ibrox debut against County, Warburton revealed Rob Kiernan is struggling with injury meaning Clint Hill and Danny Wilson will most likely be the central defensive pairing this weekend:

“Rob Kiernan might be struggling. He didn’t train this morning and we’ll see how he is tomorrow. We’re not sure yet but it might be a day or two early for him. He’s rolled his ankle and it’s a ten-day injury so it might be a day too soon. Danny Wilson is fit and well and trained very well this morning. Clint Hill trained really well. Martyn Warhorn’s fit and well. Matt Crooks is available for selection which is good to see and Joe Dodoo is four or five days away. I don’t think he’ll make it for Tuesday but Matt Crooks should feature at some stage on Tuesday.