They say you never get the full measure of a man until you see him under pressure. That’s a fact. Mark Warburton has never had pressure since arriving in Scotland. Today he’s got some, and to say he’s not dealing with it well is an understatement.
Today he was haughty, spiteful and cheeky. He demanded respect, talked up its virtues, and then showed that he has none whatsoever for anyone who’s opinion doesn’t match his. This is a guy we’ve watched develop into an abrasive, self-absorbed man drowning in a job which is way over his head, but with enough arrogance not to see it.
I understand how this happened. He arrived here having accomplished nothing of note in his football managerial career, but he was lauded as if he were Pepe Guardiola. The myth of the Magic Hat was soon propelling his ego upwards.
He had got a team of highly paid professionals to look good against mostly amateur clubs; that wasn’t the great breakthrough the media and a lot of their fans would have you believe. It did wonders for his self-esteem, but it was always going to end in tears the moment they came up against real opposition.
He cruised through the summer, and won a manager of the year award, on the back of a single result, beating Ronny Deila’s Celtic team at Hampden, on penalties, in the Scottish Cup semi-final. That day resulted in our manager being told the show was over; that’s the measure of how angry people inside Parkhead were that we’d lost to his rag-bag mob. It was a shock result because we all knew that they weren’t that great.
I’ve been listening to this guy a while now, and today was the nastiest I’ve heard him be. The whole Barton thing is allegedly about respect; a top manager shouldn’t have to demand respect or lay down the law in this bizarre fashion. You need decades of experience behind you if you’re going to try and rule by fear in a game where every decent player is a multi-millionaire.
As others have pointed out, Barton has far greater footballing experience than Warburton. He’s been in the game longer, he knows it better, and he’s been far more successful in it. The manager has no record to speak of except for a lower league title and third tier cup. He can intimidate low cost players like the Windass’s of this world, but Barton is a seasoned pro who’s played at top clubs. If their managers couldn’t get a grip on him this one won’t.
His demand that his players respect him is pathetic. No manager should need to utter those words in public, and sending a player home for giving a little back-chat is ridiculous. Suspending him for three weeks is equally dumb, especially as he has to come back at some point. The way he’s handled this has been a mess, but all his talk of respect was overshadowed by his remarkable, bitchy comment on Chris Sutton, after he’d said he wanted no part of spats with media people.
He then announced that Sutton’s opinion didn’t concern him because he was only worried about the views of those he had some respect for. Idiotic, offensive, un-necessary, and a comment which makes you wonder whether it’s a subliminal message directed at his own player or even others inside the club.
Last week he moaned about negative coverage in the wake of a 5-1 defeat, as if those kind of results are supposed to end with the media giving you a free ride. This is the pained, angry wailing of a guy who’s genuinely surprised that they don’t, because they were perfectly willing to do it up until now. But of course, he reckoned without the strong streak of pro-Sevco sentiment that runs through much of our journalistic class.
As I said before, the merest hint that he’s not capable of taking them forward and they will turn on him lions. Nothing but the club matters to them, and he was the anointed one only so long as he looked like he might be a success.
Without the “Rangers man” credentials, which would buy him time and space, he’s relying only on results and they’re not good enough.
I never rated this guy; I’ve written on that subject any number of times. But I always thought of him as a reasonably good man. In the last few weeks that’s changed. He’s shown McCoist like qualities, and he allowed himself to be dragooned into the whole sectarianism thing with that scandalous appearance on the pitch in Linfield. He begins to look more and more like the club he’s managing, and that won’t be good for his future career, if he has one.
His contempt towards Sutton is mirrored in the contempt an increasing number of people feel towards him. His team has already lost the “fear factor” that they’d hoped would make a crucial difference in games this year. Sides know this isn’t a club they need be afraid to come up against, and if Warburton thinks he’s under pressure now he’s seen nothing yet because if the bad results continue (and they will) he’s going to be under more than he’s ever known.
He’s going to be sacked. He’s working for people who will put him on the block in two seconds if it diverts flak from themselves. He’s facing a media which expects that team to challenge us, no matter how unlikely or ridiculous that idea might be. Those who surrounded him last year, whispering praise and giving him fancy nicknames are now sharpening their knives.
He appears to know it.
We’re seeing the real Mark Warburton for the first time.
It ain’t a pretty sight, although it’s most definitely an amusing one.