Mark Warburton and “Plan B”


“The best plan B is to do plan A better”

When Mark Warburton espoused this epigram as his mantra on signing up at Ibrox, it was one of the most intelligent, wisest, calculated and insightful comments to be heard in Scottish football for some considerable time, and became his ‘walking away’ buzzphrase.

When McCoist said that immortal line, it became conjoined with him, and eventually ended up his nemesis as well. Warburton’s counterpart might have been a fashionable and brilliant statement at the time, but it is now threatening to undermine him in light of deteriorating results and displays.

Rangers have two wins in the last six matches. It is a far cry from the stunning eleven wins out of eleven which earned Warburton the “Magic Hat” nickname, and it is not form which will earn Rangers promotion, never mind the title outright.

The big question on the lips of many supporters is will Warburton resort to a Plan B? Will he adopt a contingency tactic to combat the increasingly effective opposition approach to stifling his men? While no one would advocate aerial bombardment as a standard system, does Warbs have what it takes to adopt a completely new strategy when required?

The reality is that 4:3:3 with two wingers who cut in and two wing backs who maraud constantly is not working. Midfield is not functioning as it should, with Gedion Zelalem suffering especially and starting to look totally jaded – gone is the early season composure and swagger, and he looks like he does not know what to do with the ball.

That indecision sums up Rangers’ play these days – the system, previously smoothly oiled and coherent, is no longer clicking into life, but with Warbs unable or unwilling to change it the players suffer frustration, uncertainty and ultimately ineffectiveness.

His entire managerial career, as promising though it has been, with one excellent promotion secured and another nearly delivered last season too, has been based on flowing, attacking football under 4:3:3.

It has worked in England, and it was working here. But there is a difference. No one expected anything of Brentford. They were never and never will be big fish, so teams would never set up to strangle them. Now that Scottish teams see Rangers, the big fish, playing this way, they try doubly hard to suffocate it.

And it is sadly working – the system which did not suffer major opposition to its style in England due to Brentford not being a major scalp now is up here in Scotland given Rangers are – and Warburton is clearly struggling to counter that.

One suspects the manager has slightly underestimated Scottish football, and the significance of Rangers within it, and how badly opponents want to beat them – either way, the sooner Warbs finds a plan B, an alternative strategy when required, the better.


  1. plan b is to blame eyeryone but himself he and weir don't have a clue its ok beating alloa but come on we cant beat Falkirk with the squad we have majic hat I don't think so

  2. To successfully implement Plan A you need two strong centre backs that are quick thinkers, good headers of a ball and are quick both mentally and physically. Right now that does not exist at Rangers. You need two good fast defenders capable of both attacking and defending. While our two fullbacks, (and we only have two full backs on our books), but while they are good going forward they are poor defensively. You need a well seasoned strong running, strong tacking defensive midfield player. We don't have that either. You need a mixture of youth and experience in midfield but all attacking midfield players should be capable of looking after themselves and be able to contribute with at least 10 goals a season, only one of our attacking midfield players, (generally played as the main striker), is capable of this and possibly two, if I include Holt or Law. We don't have a quality striker outwit the youth prospects. Miller is past it and Clarke is poor. So lets not kid ourselves that we have the players capable of winning this league because unless some of the young lads come through and do it or we sign a minimum of three top quality players in the January transfer window, we will struggle.

  3. The players are there I think. You're right about the wingers of course. Young McKay has to play on the right, get past the full back and fire them in low and hard or cut them back from the bye-line. He either can't or won't do that with his left peg.
    Templeton looked pretty good under MW and DW before he got crocked AGAIN. The same could be said for young Tom Walsh who I like. He's direct and looks pretty pacey to. Unfortunately, he's out injured too so that leaves the wide left spot as a bit of a problem.
    I don't know who plays there in the reserves or if he's ready to step up. But that young guy Thompson is a lefty and looks a pretty confident kid on the ball. He looked good when he got 20 or 25 minutes a couple of weeks back. He's a natural lefty and I think he might be able to do a job out there.
    His nominated 'best position' is central midfield with his 'secondary position' being left back. So I assume he can tackle.
    So I think they could give him a run out wide to see how he goes. With the possibility of swapping with Andy Halliday if it doesn't go to plan. Halliday is a winger, though he's done well playing in midfield. They are both lefties so either would give that balance to McKay.
    If we get put under the pump they could both link up in midfield to add a bit of depth and Waggy could drift out to the left a bit.
    Tav has to be reigned in. I think we all know that. It's starting to look amateur. Anyway, with that 4-4-2 setup we'd have plenty of attacking options in front of him and a bit of cover when Tav and Lee Wallace do go forward.
    I bet the centre backs, Ball, Kiernan and Wilson would all like to see a change.

    Just some thoughts. We'll all have our opinions. It might be a bit late to see how changes like that would work out. It seems more likely that Rangers will try and bring in new faces in the January window.
    Either way, something HAS to change.





    • Totally agree with Hardie and Thompson. Would replace Tavernier with a "robust" fullback in January. Warbs knows the team needs to add maturity, physicality and cleverness. Let us hope Mr King can deliver at least two players with these traits on the first of January.
      Presently in Rangers tactics I see a man short in defence, a man short in midfield and two men overcrowding the centre forward position, thus playing into the opposing team's set ups.
      The spine of a football team is vital and right now Rangers don't have one.

  4. Any good manager would have several alternatives in mind if something is not working.I also think he's left it too late in giving Hardie, Law and Thomson a chance. Central defence is dire

  5. My plan B would be have a crack at the goal all this fine passing and patterns don't score goals,if you don't buy a ticket you don't win the lottery ,teams are packing their defence and all our fancy passing isn't getting us anywhere for God sake take a pop

  6. Rangers best eleven is Foderingham, Tavernier Kiernan,Ball, Wallace, Halliday Zelalem,Holt,Oduwa,Waghorn and McKay.
    That is our best team and that should be the starting line up every week if all are fit.Gedion Zelalem and Nathan Oduwa have not been on the pitch at the same time since the 1-1 draw with Livingston and both were on the bench when we lost 2-1 at Easter Road.Just check our results when both start the game.
    Our problem is when we pick players like Miller,Clark and Shiels to start games as these players are not good enough to be in the starting line-up.
    Zelalem is not jaded but you need to have creative players in the team for him to be at his best

    • To beat a packed defence you have to stretch them and/or get in behind them. To do that you need wingers, ON BOTH WINGS, who can and will drive to the bye-line and play it in behind the defence.
      If they can't get through then the ball must be moved back and across to the other wing RAPIDLY. Eventually, all that shuffling from side to side will take its toll on opponents. They start to tire or lose concentration and gaps appear when they stop moving as a unit.
      So eventually the wingers will get around them or the spaces open up to play passes to runners through the gaps.
      When McKay is on the left he won't do that. He always cuts inside onto his right foot. This suits a defence that bunches up in the middle. Cutting inside must always be a surprise option but his bread and butter should be hitting the line and smahing it across goal or cutting it back once he's turned the defence around.
      He is our quickest player and best winger. He MUST play on the right. MW must find someone who can do likewise on the left from within the squad or bring someone in. One winger doing it, or doing it 'occasionally', won't work.
      The article was right. Wingers cutting in all the time and playing in front of a defence that bunches up in the middle is not a good policy. It has to change.

  7. Well said. I have said for a while that if other managers in the championship can change their style to beat rangers then why can't Warburton change his style to beat others.As we know entertaining football is good to watch but in the end if you haven't won you are going to be passed off. The officials were white by the way. WATP.

  8. Sorry am I missing something but I don't actually think that the squad we have is much better than your falkirks or Hibs to be honest…. The squad was assembled for under a million pound and is full of promise but nothing else… These players have proved nothing at previous clubs and is starting to look like they won't prove it here at Rangers…. I think warbs systems will work but needs a far better standard of player anybody agree??

  9. Plan "B" for me would include :-
    1) midfielders or others sprinting towards the two banks of 4 set up by the opposition and have the ball threaded through to them. Won't work every time,but one will get through. Think Holt against QOS at ibrox.
    2) shooting from outside penalty box with players nipping in for any scraps from the goalie.
    3) fling in the odd high ball
    4) play the right footed mckay on the right wing, push lee forward as a left winger and someone cover for him.

  10. We have been struggling since October and it's getting worse! No plan A usually means the manager isn't clever enough to have a plan B. Our team sets up one way that is too predictable. Kiernan plays week in week out when he isn't good enough,Wilson is only slightly better. Tav is abysmal as is Oduwa and Zelelam passes sideways too much. For me Warns has assembled a team with know backline, no depth and no imagination. He also put our young player of the year last year into the reserves and our player of the year he gave away to our biggest threat and now is part of the best defence in our league and replaced him with worse quality! – I said at the start of the season that Warns comes across like a good coach but doesn't really have what it takes to manage a club like Rangers and change tactics or build teams and I stand by that…

  11. David, I agree totally with what you are saying.

    Problem, big problem, is that there are no funds available to bring in higher quality players that will contribute not just this season but also next year in the SPFL.

    If, a big if, the £5m has been raised to pay SD, this would be additional to the £2.5m needed to see out the season.

    The 3 Bears funds must be close to exhaustion with only a debt for equity swap sometime in the future to recoup their investment.

    As someone has already pointed out another rights issue of say £30m, and that's optimistic, will only bring in less than £15m in fresh cash, the rest of the equity going to the 3 Bears, and King if he's contributed, to repay the soft loans already made plus the £5m and £2.5m mentioned earlier.

  12. Wilson not good enough,never in his postion,never gets back quick enough.and for God's sake the game is about scoring goals,my grandson who's 9, could have scored 2 or 3 from the edge of the box,have a bloody shot at goals,WATP

  13. I think Zel & ODU will probly go at the end of the season & we ned to replace them in Jan, hopefully get some players bedded in for when [if] we go up. I dont know what has happened to TAV he seems to have lost his swagger he was on fire recently but now…

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