MARK WARBURTON’S progressive approach to working a revolution at Rangers will be underpinned by a ruthless sense of discipline and a stern refusal to let his rules and his standards be broken.

The 52-year-old Englishman has worked his way up from a youth team job at Watford by demanding his teams play expansive, possession-based football and even taken players on to the trading floor he inhabited in a previous life to witness the pressures and team-building techniques of another trade.

He has staged PowerPoint presentations with his squad inside Murray Park and carried out one-to-ones with every player. The squad are currently having an input into establishing a Code of Conduct with him.

Frank McParland, his former sporting director at Brentford, has branded Warburton a “visionary” thanks to the work he did in co-founding the NextGen Series which ran for two years and pitted the clubs deemed to have the best academy systems in Europe, including Celtic, against each other at youth level.

He has watched players give themselves to his philosophy and reap the benefits, but he warns that Warburton, skin thickened by a highly-pressurised career in The City which involved trading in millions of pounds, is not a man to be trifled with as he begins work on rebuilding a club reduced to rubble over the past few years.

“He is a terrific man-manager and people like him, but he has a real ruthless streak,” said McParland. “The rules are the rules.

“He has gone from a small club in Brentford to an absolutely gigantic one, but he will have the same ethos and view on what the players should be doing.

“If someone is told to come in certain attire, they do it. These people are paid a lot of money to represent Rangers. How lucky are those boys to be in that position?

“They just need to realise that. Mark is a disciplinarian, but the players like him for that.

“Real, proper players like rules. They like to know where they have to be at a certain time and what they are expected to be doing and he is certainly not going to allow anyone to represent that club in a bad way.

“At Brentford, there were no mobile phones allowed in certain areas, phones could not be switched on when people were having lunch.

“We didn’t have club suits as such, but everyone had to wear a suit for the home games and had to wear the right tracksuit for the away matches.

“People would not be late. He was a stickler for that. It is what we all have to do in normal jobs, really, and the players will be involved in a lot of the decisions being made, but his say is final.”

McParland jokes that you could never beat Warburton into the office at Brentford, claiming he would be at his desk at six in the morning and there until eight at night.

It is the manifestation of a work ethic built up during his years in London’s Square Mile, but a little research conducted earlier this year showed that there is one element of Warburton’s life that will never be compromised as he chases professional success.

“He invited me to the League Managers’ Association do at the end of the season,” said McParland. “One of his old mates from The City was there and I had a good chat with him, trying to find out what he was like in that environment.

“The fellow said: ‘In first, home last, but lots of us would party all night and Warbs always wanted home to play with his kids.’

“If he was in London, he would do his job to the max, but he is a real family man with two lovely boys and he always wanted to get home and see them and his wife, Liz. You have to respect a guy like that.”

McParland actually helped shoehorn Warburton into management back in December 2013. He was meeting Brentford owner Matthew Benham to talk about a role within the club after being dismissed by Liverpool when it became clear their boss Uwe Rosler was heading for Wigan Athletic.

Warburton was talked into taking over the team with McParland moving into his old job of sporting director.

“When we all decided it would happen, I said to Matthew that I’d stay until the end of the season and leave if it didn’t work out, because Warbs was a great Sporting Director and he could have gone back to that job,” revealed McParland.

“I just wanted someone with a similar philosophy to me on football and it was a no-brainer for me to recommend him for the manager’s job.

“I always remember that he brought a team from Watford when I was at the Liverpool Academy to play in a round robin tournament with us and a Hungarian team. After their game with us, I went into their dressing room and said to their players and him: ‘This is the best I have ever seen anyone play on that pitch.’

“When you have the respect of your players, you can coach six-year-olds or 26-year-olds.

“The easiest thing to do at Brentford would have been to put in a manager who had 500 league games under his belt, would have kept you in the division and would have been accepted by the fans. Mark was a risk and we wanted a top, top coach with real credibility to come in and help him. David Weir fitted the bill.”

Warburton and Weir won promotion from League One and made it to last season’s Championship play-offs even though it was known from February that they would be leaving in the summer. As McParland reveals, attention to detail was integral to that success.

“All of the training would be recorded on video,” he said. “It is unusual. I have worked at Premiership level and that hasn’t always happened, but those two wanted to pick the bones out of sessions as well as games.

“There were several reasons. We had a player injured in training and we used the footage to help with his treatment. The physios would look at how he went over.”

No stone unturned, indeed. Time will tell if it is the right approach for a club needing rebuilt brick by brick.


David used to be public enemy No.1

FRANK McPARLAND went from hating the ground David Weir walked on to falling in love with his footballing philosophy and eventually becoming his flat-mate.

McParland is a lifelong Liverpool supporter who worked as chief scout and academy director at the Anfield club and he concedes that he dreaded the sight of Weir putting the squeeze on his boyhood club’s strikers when starring in defence for city rivals Everton.

They became close friends when the ex-Rangers captain took over the youth and reserve squads at Goodison after ending his playing career at Ibrox, though, and briefly lived together after joining with Mark Warburton as part of a new-look management team at Brentford during the 2013-14 season.

“He was an animal on the pitch and I used to hate watching him,” said McParland. “He would come to Anfield and was such a horrible, horrible player when he was against you.

“I didn’t really know him until he was coaching at Everton, but he came over to spend the day with us and we really hit it off. He is well- educated, a real gentleman, and has a lot of the same ideas as me about football.

“He is thoughtful when it comes to his players and has an unbelievable relationship with them. They have massive respect for what he has done in the game and that will be the same at Rangers now.

“After seeing Liverpool winning the Champions League final in 2005, I would say that the first year I spent with David and Warbs at Brentford was the next best thing in my entire career in football.

“I used to stay in a hotel when I went down to Brentford because I was only there three nights a week. I ended up staying with David for a month or so before getting my own apartment in the same building so that the families could come down. We had great fun and went out every night for dinner. I think I put about two stones in weight on.”

McParland admits Weir would often discuss his love for Rangers with him and Warburton and talk about the possibilities that would exist there for any manager when the club had been placed back on a sound footing.

“The three of us used to speak about Rangers and what a club it is,” he said. “David always spoke about what an unbelievable opportunity it would be for anyone to go up there.

“He has been involved in Everton and Liverpool derbies, but he would tell us that you don’t know a game until you have seen Rangers against Celtic. I have been to a couple and I agree.

“We were a little club in London in Brentford. The three of us could go out to dinner and no-one would know who we were. I can imagine how it will be if those two are out for dinner together now.”


‘Moneyball’ is reason Weir was whisked to Brentford

THE ‘Moneyball’ method brought down the curtain on Mark Warburton’s time at Brentford ... but the fact remains that it helped lay the foundations for his partnership with trusted lieutenant David Weir.

Warburton, Weir and their sporting director Frank McParland all took the decision to leave when the SkyBet Championship club’s owner Matthew Benham announced he would be going further down the road of using specific data for player recruitment.

‘Moneyball’ is a system established in American baseball which involves the use of previously-undervalued statistics to identify talent and give clubs with a lower budget a chance to compete with richer rivals.

Benham runs a company that produces football statistics and is developing that model at Griffin Park. It also came into play, though, when Warburton and McParland suggested that should be brought into the coaching team at Brentford in late 2013, just a couple of months after he had been sacked from the manager’s position at Sheffield United in the wake of a 13-game reign that brought just two wins.

“This is no lie,” stated McParland. “Mark and I both knew David and really liked him, but the appointment was based on statistics to a degree. We brought his name to the table to discuss with Matthew and he said: ‘I love David Weir’.

“Even though they didn’t win all their games, all Matthew’s stats on the way his Sheffield United team played and the chances they created were great. David was just very unlucky there and it was Matthew who pointed that out.”

Warburton was open to using the ‘Moneyball’ technique – also known as Sabermetrics – and just felt the “balance” would have been wrong for him at Brentford going forward. He will almost certainly use information gleaned from it at Rangers.

“Mark and David were happy to use some of the stuff we got from Matthew,” said McParland. “You are better to have as much information as you can get before you make your mind up. Matthew had a lot of good ideas that fitted in very well with traditional scouting. He just wanted to go further down that route with ‘the eyes’ not being as important.

“I have no animosity because we were all treated very well at the end.”