War­bur­ton: We want this cup. We won’t shirk a tackle

Rangers des­per­ate to avoid bloody noses of past Petro­fac bouts in­sists man­ager

The Herald - Sport - - FOOTBALL - CHRIS JACK

THE Petro­fac Train­ing Cup isn’t ex­actly a win-win sit­u­a­tion for Mark War­bur­ton. If Rangers lift the sil­ver­ware, they will get lit­tle credit and will have achieved some­thing they were ex­pected to. If they don’t, the fall-out will be pro­longed, the crit­i­cism hard-hit­ting.

It may seem harsh, but it is a sit­u­a­tion the Ibrox man­ager un­der­stands. This com­pe­ti­tion may be de­rided in some quar­ters, but it means some­thing to War­bur­ton and his play­ers.

If Rangers were to lose their semi­fi­nal meet­ing with St Mir­ren tomorrow af­ter­noon, it would be a dam­ag­ing re­sult for War­bur­ton, an­other blow from which they would have to quickly re­cover af­ter a de­feat to Hiber­nian and draw with Liv­ingston that has con­trib­uted to their Cham­pi­onship ad­van­tage be­ing whit­tled away in re­cent weeks.

Vic­tory would put them 90 min­utes away from their first win­ner’s medal of the sea­son, though, with Peter­head al­ready wait­ing in what could be a Ham­p­den fi­nal.

The Petro­fac Cup has given Rangers plenty of bloody noses over the last couple of cam­paigns and War­bur­ton is keen to avoid suf­fer­ing an­other. He finds him­self in a unique po­si­tion in this tour­na­ment, but he is de­ter­mined to emerge vic­to­ri­ous and put sil­ver­ware in the Ibrox tro­phy room for the first time as boss.

“I’m learn­ing that [about the im­por­tance of win­ning to avoid the fall-out]. I’m learn­ing that very quickly,” he said. “But it’s about get­ting the right mes­sage across. We will be best pre­pared. Our supporters know there will not be a player shirk­ing a tackle or not giv­ing 100 per cent. All we do is get our heads down and get the right re­sult.

“You’re telling me there will be a s*** storm if we don’t win the cup. It can’t be both ways. So if we do win it, then we have done some­thing right and it de­serves to go up there. If not, why is there is a s*** storm? The fact is it is a tro­phy that we want to win and then move on from there.”

The Petro­fac Cup is cer­tainly not Rangers’ top pri­or­ity this sea­son but a suc­cess would still rep­re­sent an im­por­tant mile­stone for War­bur­ton and a first medal for many of his play­ers.

The fo­cus, as al­ways from War­bur­ton, re­mains firmly fixed on the next 90 min­utes and nei­ther he nor his side will take St Mir­ren, or Peter­head should they get to the fi­nal, lightly in their pur­suit of sil­ver­ware. Yet he knows the sig­nif­i­cance of what could be achieved, not only for the play­ers on the park, but for the fans in the stand.

“We spoke about young Acad­emy boys and they said as good school­boy play­ers they are used to play­ing in cup fi­nals and get­ting medals and tro­phies,” War­bur­ton said. “Then you go into full-time foot­ball and when do you win a medal? You play Acad­emy games and un­less you’re an in­ter­na­tional player and win an in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment you never get to lift a cup and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

“So for th­ese boys to get to a cup fi­nal, wher­ever it may be played, is fan­tas­tic for them. It is im­por­tant for the supporters, they back us. The game’s on TV but they’re still com­ing to Ibrox and fill­ing it.

“Their sup­port has been mag­nif­i­cent so we’ve got to give some­thing back, go out there and de­liver a per­for­mance and get to the fi­nal, touch wood. Then give an­other good per­for­mance and give them some­thing to cheer and smile about. That’s our job, that’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

By the time the Petro­fac fi­nal comes around in April, the out­look for Rangers could be sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent, as could the per­son­nel in War­bur­ton’s squad. The matches with Hiber­nian and Liv­ingston have changed the com­plex­ion of the Cham­pi­onship ti­tle race, but have not al­tered War­bur­ton’s think­ing for the Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow.

“Not at all,” he said. “If we had played five, lost three and drawn one then I think we’d have to look more closely. But the fact is other teams have im­proved their form. All credit to Hibs and the other teams. Putting a run to­gether is dif­fi­cult. They have closed the gap on the back of their form, not on the back of our form.

“We have taken 37 points from 42. It’s not bad shape. I was be­ing told next door [in the broad­cast press con­fer­ence] to avoid the cri­sis. Wow, that was in­ter­est­ing.”

RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY: Mark War­bur­ton wants to give Rangers fans some­thing back for their sup­port since he took over at the Ibrox club

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