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Warburton backing his troops to handle the Hampden heat

By Andy Newport

Published 16/04/2016

Warrior: Kenny Miller is no stranger to an Old Firm scrap
Warrior: Kenny Miller is no stranger to an Old Firm scrap

Rangers boss Mark Warburton has told his Old Firm debutants to make sure they come away from tomorrow's showdown against Celtic with no regrets.

The Englishman is preparing for the biggest test of his Ibrox reign as he squares up to Celtic for the first time in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals.

The majority of his squad have never faced the white-hot atmosphere of the Glasgow derby.

But Warburton insists his men will handle the heat at Hampden.

He said: "(Assistant manager) Davie Weir has played in many of these games. So has (striker) Kenny Miller and (goalkeeping coach) Jim Stewart so there is lots of experience in the camp.

"But it's pointless saying I know what's coming. If you haven't played in the game it would be foolhardy to say you know what will happen.

"However, these guys are pro footballers. This is what they do. If you are bricklayer and get told to build a wall twice as big as normal, you get on with it and deal with it. The lads are well-prepared, they have worked hard all season. They are in a good place. They've won the league and are moving on. They are looking forward to the game and I think they'll relish it.

"There are no wobbles. It isn't a bridge too far. Far from it. I've told them, 'don't look back with any regrets. Go and enjoy it'."

Gers have made huge strides under Warburton's care and will make their return to the top-flight next season after finally bringing an end to their four-year nightmare in the lower leagues.

But Warburton admits his side go into the meeting with Ronny Deila's men as underdogs.

"A gap clearly exists," said the 53-year-old. "It would be foolish to say otherwise. They are top of the Premiership. They are champions. The European campaigns they have had of late have given them a financial impetus.

"We would be foolish to say there is not a gap. This game on Sunday is important but our job, the bigger picture, is that between now and August 6 we work hard to try and close the gap. We won't close it completely. But we have to try because a gap does exist right now, understandably."

Rangers' cavalier brand of football has been too much for their Championship rivals to handle this term. They clinched promotion with four games to spare and can equal the record points tally of 91 set by Hearts last season if they win their remaining fixtures.

However, some pundits have suggested Warburton's team face a painful lesson if they go with their usual open style tomorrow.

"We are what we are," said the former Brentford manager. "We know what we can do. We're well prepared and go into the game wanting to win it, expecting to put in a good performance."

Belfast Telegraph

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