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Rangers boss Mark Warburton stands by his Joey Barton gamble

By Adam McKendry

Joey Barton may not be flavour of the month at Rangers but boss Mark Warburton claims he doesn't regret signing the controversial midfielder.

Barton's Ibrox future is still hanging by a thread after his training ground altercation with team-mate Andy Halliday following September's 5-1 defeat by Celtic.

The 34-year-old was suspended by the Gers and has also been charged by the Scottish FA for breaching gambling rules.

Warburton has been reluctant to discuss Barton's fate but broke his silence to defend his decision to take the player from Burnley on a two-year contract in May.

Without noticably referring to the player by name, when asked if he stood by the signing of Barton, Warburton replied: "Absolutely.

"The experience, the quality was there for all to see. I think everyone in football was both surprised and excited by that signing. So I absolutely stand by that signing.

"We were active over the summer and it takes time to bed in."

Asked if he was worried about a clash in personalities, Warburton replied: "I don't refer to any individual. I think it's important to have the environment you want to have in place. Davie Weir and I are very much ones for respect."

Neither Warburton nor any member of his management staff spoke to BT Sport after the win over Inverness this month.

TV pundit Chris Sutton had been critical of the Gers boss but Warburton says there is now no problem with the broadcaster.

He said: "Any issue we had has been resolved. We recognise Rangers being back in the top-flight and the size, history and tradition of the club. But it's the nature of the message.

"If you lose you expect to be hammered, that's part and parcel. But sometimes they step over boundaries and it's important if we think they have we make our feelings felt."

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

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.

"There is a financial gap that exists. That's clear. 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.

"We recognise and respect that. We 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.

"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.

"The worst thing we could do is not build strong foundations here. I guess Graeme is acknowledging the gap with his experience. It has to be a 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."

Belfast Telegraph


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