Frustrated - Mark Warburton
Rangers manager Mark Warburton has criticised the new format of the Betfred Cup and its impact on his pre-season schedule, telling the Scotsman that playing four games in nine days is ‘far from ideal’.
The former Brentford manager is particularly vexed at the new format of the Betfred Cup, the rebranded Scottish League Cup, which will see the introduction of a preliminary group stage before the usual knockout format.
All Scottish league sides enter the group stage, held in late July, with the exception of those sides competing in Europe, namely Hibernian, Aberdeen and Celtic.
Rangers won promotion last season and are looking push on in the top flight
Eight sides were to be seeded in the group stage, however, Rangers were only included as second seeds, with Scottish Premier League sides ahead of them picking up a better seeding.
And as a result, the draw has meant Rangers will play their hardest fixture of the group stage first against Motherwell, before playing lesser sides.
For Mark Warburton, who may now be deeply regretting his side’s loss in the Scottish Cup final last season, this is not the best way to prepare for the new season.
“We face four games in nine days: July 16, 19, 22, 25. With the hardest one first.
“I just look at it and say any team would like to have probably a five or six-game pre-season game programme building up in quality and intensity to prepare you as best as possible for the season ahead.
“We are going to play Charleston Battery for a warm-up game [on 6 July] – and it is just 45 minutes for two separate 11s. And then the next game is Motherwell.
Rangers manager Mark Warburton may rest players in the group stage of the competition
“I just find it, for us, far from ideal. I’m being very polite saying that. So you go high quality opposition, then you go down [to lower league sides] and then face Burnley on the 30th.
“Why four games in nine days? Who here thinks four games in nine days makes any sense at all when we haven’t played any game before that other than 45 minutes of football as part of a training game?
“And we talk about responsibility to the fans. I think a lot of these games are televised. Who wins from that? If these were four games over 18, 19 days, whatever, then I understand it. No problem at all.
“But the intensity of these games? If I put a Under-19, Under-20 side watch the reaction from the media, the authorities, from the fans.
“I’m sure I’m not the only one saying this. I hope very much I won’t be alone.
“ I know I won’t be because managers have to look after their own clubs. I speak to my staff. I can’t change it, I don’t have the power to change it. I just want what’s best for Rangers.”
Rangers won the Scottish Championship last season, but haven't won major silverware for five years
Rangers haven’t won any major silverware for over five years, with their last success coming in 2011 with the Scottish League title, and the Scottish League Cup would have been a key target for Warburton heading into the new campaign.
He is also expected to mount some kind of title challenge to Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic, who have won the Scottish Premiership for five years straight in Rangers’ absence.