Mind the gap

Mark Warburton admits Rangers are lagging behind Celtic both on and off the pitch but says it would be wrong to rush through a rescue package.

The Ibrox boss has faced further questions over the club’s direction in the wake of their 1-0 defeat to the Hoops in Sunday’s BetFred Cup semi-final.

Former Gers manager Graeme Souness claims the Englishman has not had the backing he needs from chairman Dave King’s board, and reckons it could take his old side five years to close the gap on their rivals.

Warburton was in no mood to disagree with Souness but stressed there is no way the Light Blues faithful would stand for spending another half a decade in the Parkhead outfit’s shadows.

However, given the club’s recent financial woes, the former City trader also stressed that spending recklessly was not the answer.

Warburton said: “Football is a game of opinions and Graeme is a very knowledgeable football man, steeped in experience who knows all about Glasgow too. You have to respect his opinion.

“There is a financial gap that exists at this moment in time. That’s clear for everybody to see.

“They (Celtic) have a squad packed with international players. They are in the Champions League this year and are getting all the benefit of that in terms of playing experience and financial income.

“We recognise and respect that. We then have to sit down and decide how do we close it? How do we improve our squad? Can we invest astutely and wisely?

“We have to set aggressive targets to try and close the gap. If our supporters can see that we will be in a good place.

“I read some ludicrous comments this morning about how my City background should make me aware of the power of financial muscle. I’m not a rocket scientist but I’m not a fool.

“Of course you recognise the implications of a rival club with a strong financial base at this moment in time. The worst thing Rangers could do is spend recklessly to try to close that gap too quickly.

“We know the gap is there. But what is also important is the target setting so we know what we have to do in what time frame in what gap.

“The worst thing we could do is not build strong foundations here, and from the chairman and the board down the club is very clear what we have to do.

“I guess Graeme is acknowledging the gap with his experience. It has to be shorter period [than five years] in my opinion. I’m not ignoring Graeme’s opinion but our job has to move quicker.

“Would the Rangers fans accept five years? I don’t think so. I hope they know we’re on a project and on a road. Hopefully we’re making good progress down that road, but they need to see that progress.”

Rangers added 11 players to the squad this summer but few of the new recruits have made an impact.

Warburton’s marquee signing Joey Barton has not been seen for the past six weeks after being handed a club suspension while Niko Kranjcar could miss the remainder of the season because of a knee injury.

Others such as Joe Garner – a £1.7million buy from Preston – have struggled to even break into the Gers team.

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has had no such difficulty gelling his new players into the Hoops line-up. Moussa Dembele grabbed his 14th goal of the season with Sunday’s Hampden winner while Scott Sinclair has rediscovered his best form since quitting Aston Villa for Glasgow’s east end.

But Warburton says it is unfair to compare the deals both clubs have made in recent months.

“I’m never going to be derogatory to my players, far from it,” said Warburton ahead of Wednesday’s Ladbrokes Premiership clash with St Johnstone. “I’ve been delighted with them.

“We signed Clint Hill, Lee Hodson, Matt Gilks, Niko Kranjcar etc on frees and I can go forward from there. We are working to build the club on solid foundations.

“The names you mentioned are high-quality players. I don’t think for one second that certain pay levels compare at this moment in time.

“I think it’s important that when people talk about figures, do your investigative homework and make sure you have your facts behind the statements you are making. ”

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