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Rangers never lost focus during Joey Barton saga, says Mark Warburton

By Gavin McCafferty

Rangers manager Mark Warburton says the Joey Barton soap opera was never a distraction for the Ibrox club.

The controversial midfielder's brief, ill-fated spell in Glasgow finally came to an end last week with the termination of his contract.

Barton was yesterday given a one-match suspension for breaking Scottish Football Association rules on gambling but the much bigger personal blow came when the Gers showed him the door after a training ground bust-up led to a falling-out with Warburton.

The 34-year-old played just eight games for the club after his summer switch from Burnley but Warburton insists the player's suspension and stand-off with the club was never a distraction.

"We are never going to lose focus," he said. "The focus has to be on the players and the game. The players are the first to pick up if you're not focused. I hope, touch wood, that's never changed. It is just part and parcel of football.

"Whatever the matter, if the grass is too long on the pitch, if the food is cold in the canteen, whatever the subject, it's part of football so you deal with it. I'm not trivialising any issue. What I'm saying is that it's closed now and we move on from that."

When asked whether the Barton affair would put him off signing another high-profile player, Warburton said: "Not at all. It's about doing your homework, your diligence, you hope you get it right.

"You have got to make what you think are the right decisions at the right time, and that's what you are paid for."

After a hearing at Hampden, Barton admitted to the charge of placing 44 bets between July 1 and September 15.

SFA disciplinary rules prohibit players, coaches, club officials and referees in Scotland from betting on football anywhere in the world.

The former Manchester City and Newcastle United player may be offered the opportunity to train with his former club Burnley.

"If he felt he needed a base to get fit, among many other players I've helped out, I'd listen," Clarets boss Sean Dyche said.

The ban will apply should he find another club in the United Kingdom because of an agreement between the home nations.

Barton's exit came after Niko Kranjcar was ruled out for the season with a knee injury. When asked if the loss of two experienced midfielders would influence his January transfer business, Warburton said: "Niko's injury, absolutely. Niko provided a real cleverness.

"He is a master technician, you saw his ability with the ball. We have lost that, I'm not going to hide behind the fact we've lost a very talented player. So we will be looking to maybe replace in that area.

"We will have Jordan (Rossiter) to come back, Andy Halliday can play further forward, and Harry Forrester is waiting there as well. So there is no doubt we have options but if I'm looking in that area? Absolutely."

Meanwhile, Warburton has assured a frustrated Martyn Waghorn his time will come.

The Gers chief described reports of a disagreement between the pair as "ludicrous" and stated that the answer to being left out of the team was to work harder.

Waghorn, Rangers' top goalscorer last season, has had to be content with coming off the bench for the past four matches.

The former Leicester and Wigan striker suffered a hamstring injury in the Premiership opener against Hamilton and has not scored a league goal since, although he bagged a cup hat-trick against Queen of the South.

"I read a report that we had a big fallout," added Warburton ahead of tomorrow's home Premiership clash with Dundee.

"Waggy knocked on the door and said, 'Have we fallen out gaffer?' I said, 'Not as far as I'm aware, Waggy'. Far from it."

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