Mark Warburton and his Rangers side have done a fantastic job of firing back at their critics over the last fortnight, with two 4-0 wins and a blast at certain sections of the media over what the manager believes was “disrespectful” reporting of Fulham’s supposed interest in luring Warburton back over the border.
Consecutive 4-0 Ibrox triumphs over St Mirren and Dumbarton, in the space of three days, quickly ended talk of the Light Blues being out of form, however heavy wind and rain caused last weekend’s match with Raith Rovers to be postponed.
Throughout last week, reports suggested Fulham were looking north in their search for a replacement for the recently dismissed Kit Symons. Despite Warburton taking to Twitter to deny the reports and insist he was staying at Ibrox, there were some who persisted with their claim of an imminent move across Hadrian’s Wall. One BBC journalist went as far as to claim Rangers had offered Warburton increased terms in light of Fulham’s interest, before hastily suggesting the board had changed their mind on that one.
Then on Thursday at his pre-match press conference, in the build-up to the Raith game, Warburton was again asked about the link with the Craven Cottage side. Before Alasdair Lamont could even finish his question he was stopped in his tracks: “Get the facts right, please”, began a clearly exasperated Warburton. “There’s no interest. I’m the Rangers manager and I’ve made that very, very clear. Last week, Saturday, Tuesday and again last night (on Twitter) I was forced into saying that I’m absolutely committed to Rangers.”
Warburton, after being asked whether the board had contacted him about any approach from Fulham, then put Lamont in his place by following up with; “I think it’s very important any media outlet has journalistic integrity, does their homework, investigates and substantiates. When that’s done, if it’s proven to be correct then absolutely (ask questions about it) but until that point it’s disrespectful to me answering the same questions four or five times a week. It’s disrespectful to the club, the supporters and, in this case, Fulham.”
After that press conference it’s barely been mentioned since. Wonder why?
Moving on from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous, and the SPFL unveiled plans to revamp the League Cup from next season. A 40-team group stage, a guarantee of four competitive games in July, and the return of the winter break for Premiership clubs (and maybe everyone else too) looks like a solid start. Clubs will probably have two home games each so there might also be slight financial boost for smaller clubs, but then there’s the bonus point. Games that end in a draw will now go to a penalty shoot-out with the winner getting a bonus point. The idea is that this will help avoid dead rubbers and more games will mean something. But there’s a problem. There will be 12 teams going through from eight groups. So that’s eight group winners and the four best second-placed sides.
Conveniently, there will also be eight Premiership sides in the group stages. That leaves four sides from the other 32 that make up the non-Premiership places. This wouldn’t be Scottish football without another odd plot twist though. Two clubs spoke out against the new format yesterday. Hearts and Motherwell. Something about clubs not budgeting for the season starting so early. What seems to have escaped their attention is that last season’s Scottish Cup winners were knocked out of the Europa League only a week later than the proposed start date of next year’s League Cup.
Sadly, news broke last night of the death of former goalkeeping “guru” Alan Hodgkinson. For anyone who grew up in the 90s, Hodgkinson was a key part of Rangers’ success at the time and although they maybe couldn’t name the man who spent years working with Andy Goram for club and country, they knew his face. As well as Rangers and Scotland, Hodgkinson worked with, amongst others, Manchester City, Leicester City, Everton, Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester United, Watford and Oxford. It was at Oxford where Hodgkinson finally retired in 2010 aged 76. He is also credited with being behind Peter Schmeichel’s rise at Old Trafford. As a player, his career was dominated by one club, Sheffield United; making 675 appearances for the Blades and representing England five times. Mr. Hodgkinson was revered at Bramall Lane and was called one of the club’s “greatest ever players” in a statement released last night.
And finally, since it’s nearly Christmas, what Rangers related gifts are you hoping for this year? What Rangers goodies has Santa left you in years gone by? Did you get your first strip from Santa like me? (1992-94 home kit for those wondering) Send me a tweet @jamesablack.