Rangers boss Mark Warburton voices concerns about revamped League Cup
Rangers boss Mark Warburton fears the new League Cup format could derail his attempts to topple Celtic next season.
Gers are on course for promotion back to the top flight but unless they can claim a European slot by winning this season's William Hill Scottish Cup, they will be among the 40 clubs competing in the revamped League Cup and its new-look group stage.
Scottish Professional Football League chiefs pushed through the radical overhaul in a bid to breath new life into a fading competition.
Among the new innovations are a summer round-robin contest with bonus-point shoot-outs for drawn games.
The group stage - which will take place over the last two weeks of July - is expected to largely do away with lifeless pre-season friendlies.
But Warburton would rather have control of his side's summer schedule, claiming warm-up clashes against major English and continental sides would be far more worthwhile as he prepares to limber up for his team's expected return to the Ladbrokes Premiership.
"Pre-season for me is the most important time of the year," Warburton said. "It's the chance you get to work with the players for six weeks to bed in new individuals, to bed in new tactical ideas, to go away on tour.
"You need to give yourself that chance and it needs to be the highest quality.
"I personally don't [think the new League Cup format will get teams up to speed quicker]. That's just my view but I don't buy that.
"If I could have a pre-season where I have five or six games, starting with a non-league opponent, then a lower-league opponent, then one from a division just below before finishing with an English Premier League team and a top European side at a packed Ibrox, that for me would be ideal.
"I'm not sure it suits the bigger clubs to have a pre-season programme where your last two games are against lower-league opposition. Not for the elite level. Just because there's a referee there doesn't make it competitive.
"I'd love to play a top English club or La Liga club at a packed Ibrox and see where the players are the week before what will be a very important league campaign for us.
"Would it concern me if we were involved in the group stages next season? Absolutely. I want the best pre-season programme for Rangers Football Club. My aim has got to be to provide the best possible competition and preparation for what I hope is a successful league campaign.
"I applaud the fact people are trying to look at positive change but I think we need to look at what we're trying to improve and what clubs are trying to impact."
Former Brentford boss Warburton was also again forced to distance himself from reports that linked him with a job vacancy back down south.
Having angrily denied he was on his way to Fulham last week, he dismissed rumours which hinted he was on a short-list of contenders to replace the sacked Garry Monk at Swansea.
The 53-year-old, speaking before Saturday's Ibrox clash with Morton, said: "I'm just going to repeat what I said last week. I surely can't go down this path again."
And the Englishman was also quick to shoot down newspaper reports that he was lining up a move for Dundee striker Greg Stewart.
"I'm amazed to see such headlines," said Warburton. "He's a very talented player. We look at many players down south and in Scotland of course but I'm bemused by some of the headlines.
"[Stewart] is not my player and we would not conduct our business that way. He's just one of many players we're apparently linked with."
But he did admit the Scottish market could be one he makes use of as he looks ahead to January, saying: "If we can secure a player that we think adds a quality we don't currently possess, then we will move. We've got to look at any market that we think we can get players who will add value to our squad."