New age managers

Mark Warburton (left in pic) is unveiled as the new Rangers manager in Ibrox.-REUTERS Mark Warburton (left in pic) is unveiled as the new Rangers manager in Ibrox.

Mark Warburton is the new Glasgow Rangers manager. In sharp contrast to the vast preponderance of managers in the English league, Warburton has never been a professional footballer. By now bald and middle-aged, he succeeded as an entrepreneur in the city of London, but contrived to win qualification as a senior Football Association coach. By Brian Glanville.

One of the most interesting and unexpected managerial appointments of the European close season has surely been that of Mark Warburton at Glasgow Rangers. More unexpected than his previous selection as the manager of West London club Brentford — then part of League 1 of the so called Football League. For in sharp contrast to the vast preponderance of managers in the English league, Warburton has never been a professional footballer. By now bald and middle-aged, he succeeded as an entrepreneur in the city of London, but contrived to win qualification as a senior Football Association coach.

You might well say that his appointment by Brentford was in its less spectacular way just as remarkable and prescient as that of Rangers. Matthew Benham, who appointed Warburton to manage the so called Bees, is a millionaire, who prospers from a company in betting. He has his own fixed, if somewhat unorthodox, ideas of how a football club should be run. Warburton, having won promotion from League 1 last season, had spectacular success with the division above and took the club within touching distance of the Premiership. The name now given to the senior division, from which they were relegated in June 1947 — a season prolonged after an appalling snowbound winter — never yet to return.

The problem was that their resourceful pre-War team had grown old together. Relegated, they were nicknamed the ‘Sleeping Giants’, ever likely to return through promotion to the upper section. Alas, the giants never woke up. Far from regaining their senior status, they eventually sunk out of even the then Second Division, and only now have they at last threatened to return.

I have long taken an interest in their fortunes, since, as a ten-year-old, up from boarding school for a useful dental appointment, I was actually able to watch them, at Wembley in May 1942, win the only major honour in their history: beating Portsmouth in the final of the Football League South Cup. It was no mean feat since Portsmouth then were the holders of the FA Cup itself, which they had surprisingly won there in the 1939 final, beating the hot favourites Wolves by a crushing 4-1 margin. Most of that team were playing against Brentford.

Alas for the Bees, though they barked loudly as the underdogs and won 2-0 with a couple of goals from their young English international outside left Leslie Smith, the competition, regionalised as it was, had no abiding status. You can look in vain through official records and indeed Brentford’s own, without finding it.

By a large irony, the last recorded game they played in the top division that June day was lost 1-0 to Arsenal, whose bogey team they had been for many years. I remember watching the semi-final of that wartime tournament at Stamford Bridge when a powerful Arsenal team, full of internationals, were held to a 0-0 draw by Brentford, who proceeded to beat them in the reply at Tottenham. Inside right in that Brentford team was one George Wilkins. The father of a player, who would do great things at Wembley, for Manchester United, Milan and England, not to mention early success at Chelsea. Ray Wilkins, who won over 80 England caps and has recently been appointed assistant manager to Aston Villa’s Tim Sherwood.

The word was when Brentford found themselves in the then Second Division that they were a better bet than nearby West London club Queens Park Rangers to get up to the First. Reason being that where the area around QPR’s Loftus Road was ethnically mixed, Brentford were located in one which was solidly composed of long-established local families.

Newcastle, to the indifference of the embittered fans, has appointed Steve McClaren (left) as the manager, soon after his sacking by Derby County, where he failed to win promotion to the Premiership.-AP

How wrong that proved to be! For QPR in the post War years took wind, soared up from the old Third Division, even when still there beating top division West Bromwich Albion in the final of the Football League Cup at Wembley. Glorying in such superb maverick attacking talents as those of Rodney Marsh and Stan Bowles. Producing a captain of England in Gerry Francis, who has just gone back there as assistant manager. Once missing out on the very League championship by a single point and a single costly error by their excellent keeper Phil Parkes, in a match I saw at Norwich.

That Matthew Benham should decide to let Warburton go as early as last February seemed an act of folly, but he declared, “Every decision I take is intended to be in the best long term interests of the club. It is difficult to implement change but I am single minded in my resolve that we can leave no stone unturned in our quest for sustainable Premier League football.” All credit to Warburton for riding with the punch and still getting Brentford all the way to the playoffs though there they were defeated twice by Middlesbrough.

And now, Rangers! His appointment plainly at the bidding of the multi-millionaire sports good mogul Mike Ashley though since he is already the owner of Newcastle United, impervious to the hatred of their fans — he cannot own Rangers as well, but he has put one of his leading lieutenants in a focal position.

At Newcastle, he has appointed, to the indifference of the embittered fans, Steve McClaren, soon after his sacking by Derby County, where he failed to win promotion to the Premiership. All national and local newspapers were barred from interviewing McClaren, save, for some arcane reason, the Daily Mirror. So the Press continues to detest Ashley too, but much he cares.

Still, the installation of Warburton at Ibrox is a remarkable move. Not least, because this proudly Protestant club is traditionally managed by a Scot. After for generations dominating Scottish football together with bitter Catholic-orientated rivals Celtic, it finds itself humiliatingly in Scotland’s second division, where it remains, being well beaten home and away in the recent playoffs by modest Motherwell.

Quite how once mighty, wealthy Rangers sunk into this plight is a murky and suspicious story. There should at least be money available to buy some decent players now that Ashley has arrived. Certainly the local devoted and all too often violent and bigoted support is still emphatically there.

You wonder whether Ashley might have been better advised to install Warburton at Newcastle rather than at Gallowgate, Newcastle last season avoided relegation by a whisker. What now?