Warburton: We want this cup. We won’t shirk a tackle
Rangers desperate to avoid bloody noses of past Petrofac bouts insists manager
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