Mark Warburton; the adaptation game


In times of ‘struggle’ last season one of the most prominent questions many fans asked was did Mark Warburton have a plan B?

As we all know, his quote originally was that “the best Plan B was to do Plan A better” – a very neat soundbite but ultimately Rangers had three form dips throughout the campaign (Late September to December 28th, late January to late February, and lastly the notorious post-Old Firm win dip) which saw, at the time respectively, questions being asked about a different approach when things were not going Rangers’ way on the pitch.

Post the season title triumph, Warburton was interviewed by Darrell Currie on the Ibrox turf following that disappointing draw with Alloa which ultimately gave Rangers the title, and was asked if he intended to take a different tactical approach for the Premiership next season.

His answer was an unequivocal “no”.

There are two schools of thoughts over this particular debate.

The first is to look at the proof Warburton does not need a plan B; for example, he managed promotion at the first attempt with Brentford in League 1 using his approach, and was only a slightly weaker squad off getting it the following season, ultimately losing out to Middlesbrough, ultimately finishing a very respectable fifth in the strongest second tier in world football.

The following season saw promotion with room to spare at Ibrox, a stroll in the park as, despite those aforementioned form dips, Warbs’ Rangers still absolutely stonked the league.

The biggest justification of Warbs’ tactics is not last season at Ibrox, but the prior one at Brentford. In a far stronger league than the Scottish Premiership, Brentford, with the weakest squad of the top half of the table, nearly got promoted. In other words, Warbs’ approach, with a less lavish squad than many of his peers, still succeeded in a much stronger league than the one he is about to embark on. And to further enhance this point; next season he will have a better squad to choose from – especially the likes of Joey Barton, Jordan Rossiter and Barrie McKay, to name just three.

However, there is a negative, and this is the other side;

Warburton is very stubborn, and some of his tactics clearly did not work in the Championship in individual games. The Championship in England is a much more footballing division than either its Scottish counterpart or the SPL, and Warbs’ approach was well suited to it; the SPL is a different animal which will see not only teams playing much more defensively akin to the Championship’s bottom teams like Dumbarton and Livi, but the inescapable truth that Brentford were a small fish in a giant pond and punched above their weight partly in thanks to being an unknown and unheralded quantity, not unlike Warbs himself at the time.

Next season will see Rangers as the big fish in a small pond with every team out to get a piece of us, and a point at Ibrox will be seen as a victory by many. In short, the psychology of the two situations is very different and it remains to be seen if Warbs’ current approach will be appropriate for the SPL or if he will require to adapt his tactics to handle opponents playing in a very different fashion to what he was used to in England.

The Magic Hat did indeed have a trick up his sleeve last season, but he has now shown his hand and next campaign will see better quality teams better prepared to handle him and his players.

It is up to Warburton and the team to show they are up to emulating last season.


  1. He learned a good lesson v st Johnstone the only spl team to beat us last season a couple more players and dom ball we'll be up there next season on top again for 55

  2. I would feel more confident if we were signing two commanding centre-backs instead of 15 extra midfielders. Goals against us in the final games of the season: Falkirk 3; Queen of the South 3; Raith Rovers 3; (Dumbarton and Peterhead nil); Celtic 2; Hibernian 3; Alloa 1; Livingston 1; St Mirren 2; Hibernian 3.

    • I agree we need more options in defence but if you look at the 3 midfielders we've already signed they are all comfortable as sitting midfielders and Crooks is just as comfortable playing in central defence so improvements have already been made. If we get Ball for another season I think we're covered.
      We really need more defensive minded cover for both right and left back though. It was amazing that Waldo and Tav went the whole season without serious injury and we can't rely on that happening again.

    • Rangers will sign a couple of centre backs Guido. You can see the need, as I can. the entire rangers support can see the need. it is a stonewall certainty that MW and DW can see that too.
      Who they will be, though, we'll all just have to wait and see. We also need a right back with the pace required to play in the style that rangers now play the game. He'll need to be able to drive forward and have the pace to get back quickly. Tav isn't a good tackler either, the new guy will have to have that in his game as well.
      I wonder if MW is considering playing Young Rossiter in that position? Who knows?

  3. Lads we have never seen better football at Ibrox love everything these guys are bringing to and doing with our club after last season the fact we even dreaming about Champions next year is down to one Man In Warburton we trust and we have to trust and belive like he does if we don't win first time we will do plan A better the next year and without a doubt put timmy in his rightful place 2nd

  4. I can't remember seeing better football at Ibrox, one year ago we were nowwhere I am happy to go with plan A if we don't win first year we will do plan A better and timmy will be where he belongs 2nd , but these guys are laying the foundations that if we leave them to it will grow into years of dominating our arrogant (and now worried) smelly neighbors

  5. Yes,, our defence and our keeper is garbage,,not good enough, simple as that. We need to big and strong centre halves that can deal with cross balls and wont be bullied off the ball..if wilson and kiernan are our centre halves next season,,we will be punished big time and wont be able to sign any cover until winter, and by then, it will be too late,, we have been exposed so many times at the back,,and its surprising with David Weir being a centre half himself!!,,

  6. We need some strikers. Miller has been superb in his third stint with us. Hardie is too raw to be playing a significant role in top flight. I'm not a fan of waghorn who telegraphs everything he does and slows our play down. We need a 15-20 goal a season striker signed. Along with two centre backs, keeper and a versatile full back who can play on either flank deputising for either Wallace (if injured) or tav (when his form inevitably takes that dip). Then I will be happy.

  7. Agreed. Centre Half is the most important position given the way Mark likes his team to play. Need to be tall, quick, calm under pressure and good distribution – trouble is most guys who tick these boxes play for Juventus and would cost £20m

    Quality Centre halves are more of a rarity than any other position these days it seems. How much would Goughie be worth in today's money!!???

  8. Am I the only person who would happily take Madjid Bougherra back? He has offered … and he can also start attacks …

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