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The Brentford, Rangers and Forest view – Interviews
Wednesday, 8th May 2019 17:08 by Clive Whittingham

As Mark Warburton is confirmed as the new Queens Park Rangers manager, we spoke to fans of his three former clubs to find out what we can expect from our new gaffer.

Brentford

What were Mark Warburton's main strengths as Brentford manager?

Two things - the style of football and the squad togetherness. Warbs took over midway through our promotion season from Uwe Rosler, who upped sticks and left for Wigan. Uwe had changed our style of play to the exciting, passing, attacking game we now play and Warbs took that on. He forged a very strong unit with great team spirit, who played very much for each other and also for him. For example, in 2014/15, no fewer than 11 players each made more than 30 starting appearances in the Championship and eight players who started the first game of the season also started the final regular match of the campaign. He liked to field the same, or almost the same, line-up every game.

What were his main weaknesses?

The team spirit and togetherness also proved to be his downfall, as the story goes that with the Bees in the play-off places in January, owner Matthew Benham wanted Warbs to sign more players to try to boost our chances of promotion to the Premier League at the end of the season. Warbs argued that he wanted to keep a tight-knit squad and didn't want a load of unhappy players who were sitting around not playing and possibly disrupting things, which is totally understandable. But we just fell short in the end, and squad depth could have been one of the reasons. For example, we only really had one striker in Andre Gray, and if he had got injured or been suspended we had no decent replacements on the books. His other weakness was being inflexible in the way we played. He would only play with one striker for example and wouldn't change to two up front, even if we were chasing a game in the closing stages.

He left in very odd circumstances, despite making the play-offs, can you explain a bit about how that all happened?

The club wanted to operate in its current model, with directors of football having a major say in recruitment. The head coach does have a say and can veto signings under our model, but I believe Warbs wanted total control over transfer dealings. The Times leaked a story on the morning of a Tuesday night game with Watford saying that Warbs was leaving at the end of the season. That night, the players showed their support for him - running as one to celebrate with him by the dugout when we scored. It is remarkable that our challenge didn't fall off after that but we went on to finish fifth, before losing to our bogey side Middlesbrough in the play-off semi-finals. That to me showed his true professionalism, as it would have been easy for him to ease off and for us to finish tenth would still have been respectable in our first season in the division.

How is he remembered now, looking back with hindsight?

I think there are mixed feelings among Brentford fans to be honest. Some felt he could have agreed to work within the model and stayed on. In fact, he told a Scottish podcast recently that had he agreed to sign those players in that January transfer window, then he believes he would still be our manager now. Personally I have fond memories of him - he is only the second manager in my 45+ years of watching the Bees to lead us out of the lower divisions and I will always be grateful to him for that. Coupled with that, the first season in the Championship was amazing, so I have followed his career after leaving Griffin Park with interest and can only wish him all the best - except for two occasions next season of course.

Ian Westbrook, @ianwestbrook

Rangers

What were Warburton’s strong points?

He built an exciting team very quickly. He is very attack-minded and he wants passing football. His players enjoyed playing under him.

What were his weaknesses?

Stubbornness. He does not change, ever. Talks a lot about learning but never does. Also his commitment to playing 433 Barca style is laudable, but he’d often be asking players to do things they simply weren’t capable of. I mean, we’d all like to play like Barca, but if you have a bog-standard SPFL midfielder rather than Xavi, you’re gonna struggle.

He doesn’t know how to build or fix a defence. He doesn’t seem to care about that side of the game. Lastly, we had our mutual boy Clint Hill as guest at one of our live shows and asked about MW. He said “lovely guy, but it’s like a development squad. It’s all ‘never mind, mistakes happen, next week we’ll sort it’ and there’s no consequences for mistakes.”

What was his record like in the transfer market?

Strange. When he first arrived, he built a really good side for buttons. Waghorn, Tavernier and Foderingham for 600k in total? Great business. But then...If you hear the name Frank McParland coming in as chief scout or director of football, riot. MW’s mate, ‘the best in the business’. A dodgy, dodgy bastard. When he arrived, players who clearly didn’t fit started arriving. And you hear things about where money went during those deals....

Why, despite winning promotion, is he not remembered fondly at Ibrox?

Two things - his refusal/inability to fix the problems in the side and the way he left. He tried to engineer his move to Forest, changed his mind but the board (who wanted rid) wouldn’t allow him to withdraw his resignation. A strange guy - very talented in some respects but crazy stubborn and never learns from mistakes.

Heart and Hand Podcast, @ibroxrocks

He had keen eye for younger players and did very well in his promotion year. The biggest plus point was his win over Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final. But after that it went south very quickly. Transfer wise he made some good deals such as Tavernier who is now club captain, Foderingham a solid goalkeeper, Forrester was a good player. But in general most of his signings found there level in the Championship. The following year was pretty dire – Joey Barton and Philippe Senderos speaks for its self. Clint Hill was probably his best signing.

He was found out. There was never a plan b, the football was really poor to watch and his interviews were all the same: “The boys train well and we will look to next week” always the same with never any change. I think there was a mixture of the job being too big for him with demands to catch Celtic and his lack of tactics overwhelmed him. Plus, the club was really not in a good place board wise and had all the stuff with Mike Ashley Going on. He didn’t leave on a good note, talking to Forrest behind the club’s back.”

Gary Buchanan, @gazzabuck

What were Warburton’s strong points?

He had the team playing good passing football, brilliant to watch. Against teams that opened up against us it was ideal as most times we could play through them and score.

What were his weaknesses?
Against teams who sat in and were organised we really struggled. Warburton had no plan B. He would make subs, often too late, but also they were like for like and no change to the formation and tactics. He also had the team taking short corners all the bloody time. We rarely threatened from set pieces. It was so bloody frustrating to see wasted free kicks and corners constantly.

What was his record like in the transfer market?

His record in the transfer market was mixed I would say. He had some successes… notably Tavernier, Foderingham, Windass, Holt, Danny Wilson and Waghorn. However, there was some absolute duds like Senderos, Rob Kiernan, Kranjcar, Joe Garner, Joey Barton, O'Halloran and Matt Crooks and some who did a competent job like Clint Hill, Halliday and Harry Forrester. He also signed Jordan Rossiter whose been permanently injured but there's definitely a player in him.

Why, despite winning promotion, is he not remembered fondly at Ibrox?

I think the majority of fans liked him, but ultimately the fans wanted major trophies and honours. Also, the way he and Weir left the club didn't help. He had an annoying habit of saying the same thing post match... like “we go again next week”.

Gareth Smith, @garethsmith2206

Forest

What were Mark Warburton’s main strengths as Forest manager?

He seemed to want to build a team and an ethos from the ground up. Young players from the academy were trusted with places in the first team and a footballing ethos was instilled - play the football on the ground and keep possession. When it worked, it was glorious - a high point being the 4-0 shellacking dished out to your good selves in November 2017 in which young, talented footballers like Barrie McKay, Keiran Dowell and our very own Tyler Walker bagged goals. Building from the back playing short balls in order to work our way towards goal were the hallmarks of his tenure and playing style.

What were his main weaknesses?

When it didn't work, it really, really didn't work. Rangers fans warned us of how he doesn't have a plan B and how we'd get bored of sideways passing lacking purpose and indeed, sideways passing for the sake of sideways passing - all the very worst traits of tiki-taka: all tiki but no actual take the ball towards the goal net and score a goal. A horrible December consisting of a four-game run without a goal and home defeats to Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland (Sunderland!) signposted, for some a rejection or at best, a loss of faith in his footballing principles. When we needed to scrap it out and go toe to toe with obdurate opponents, we kept playing short balls out from the back.

Who did he sign and how did they do?

Barrie McKay and Kieran Dowell (on loan) epitomise his style. McKay was outstanding until winter came and Dowell is a wonderfully gifted footballer, possessing balletic grace. Like many young players, they were superb for the first half of the season but then for whatever reason, found the going tough as the gruelling campaign wore on. The word was that he desperately wanted to bring in more pocket-sized Scottish players, specifically John McGinn. At the time, some folks felt that more pocket-sized Scottish players like John McGinn were precisely the opposite of what we needed. In retrospect, John McGinn would have been a superb signing. He also signed Jason Cummings too. That simply didn't work out.

Why did he get sacked and was it justified with hindsight?

Yes. No. Maybe. Don't know. There is a romantic school of thought which feels that he was the man we should have trusted more. As a club, we have been crying out for someone to be given time and trust to build the club back up on the field in order to get us playing with a clear sense of identity. In many ways, Warburton may well have been that man. He had a vision of every single Forest team from the youths upwards playing the same style and when challenged about a lack of a plan B, came back with how we should do plan A better. On the one hand, that sounds stubborn and dogmatic but on the other, such a response signals a principled man with a clear footballing philosophy which he felt he could deliver and matched our expectations as fans.

But if you don't win many football matches, such stuff as vision, principles and development goes to the dogs. Besides, there are only so many times you can tolerate watching a defender having a ball rolled out to him when two burly Championship strikers bear down on him and witness the panic in his sweet, round doe-eyes. And we lost at home to Sunderland (Sunderland!)

For all his excellent work at Brentford, his career has stuttered a little at Rangers and with us. One senses that he needs to make a good fist of his next appointment his approach is one that - maybe more than other managers - requires time, patience and a whole-club buy-in to his methods.

David Marples, @bandyandshinty

What were Mark Warburton’s main strengths as Forest manager?

Bringing through younger players. He gave opportunities to a few of our academy graduates and, while it was working, it was brilliant to watch—especially a certain 4-0 demolition of QPR orchestrated by the young trio of Barry McKay, Kieran Dowell and Tyler ‘son of Des’ Walker. Perhaps most interestingly, none of them have done as well since losing Warburton’s tutelage—McKay was shipped out pretty quickly and hasn’t exactly set the world alight at Swansea; Dowell struggled to break through at Everton before a loan to Sheffield United for the second half of the season (albeit one that ended rather well); Walker has spent the season on loan at League 2 Mansfield.

What were his main weaknesses?

We played some nice, attacking football, and for a while scored plenty of goals—but we conceded even more. His focus on the kids meant a severe lack of experience throughout the squad, and we paid for that once their youthful enthusiasm wore off. Most worryingly for QPR, he seemed to have no idea how – or, perhaps more concerning – no desire to fix our horrific defensive record. We were comical at times, especially from set pieces, and lacked any sort of leadership or organisation at the back.

Who did he sign and how did they do?

The best was Dowell, a young midfielder on loan from Everton who scored some worldies and chipped in with his fair share of assists. Went off the boil once Warburton was sacked. Tried to break through at the Toffees but didn’t see much game time and opted to join Sheffield United on loan in January. Not sure he’s ready for the Premier League, so could be someone Warburton looks at on loan again.

McKay was signed from Rangers (Warburton’s previous club) and started fantastically—scored from a mile out on his debut and looked like Messi at times. A tricky, goal-scoring winger with plenty of end product. But we’d heard from Rangers fans that he was temperamental and it showed. Appeared to stop caring for some reason and lost all confidence. I believe something similar has happened to him at Swansea, so another one Warburton might try and poach for QPR in the summer. One of the best in the division on his day, and Warburton is someone who can get the best out of him.

Jason Cummings, another Scottish import, was somewhat of an unknown. Top scorer for Hibs for a few seasons, but the Championship was clearly a step too far. I think a lot of people really wanted him to succeed but he couldn’t cut it. Has been loaned out to Rangers, Peterborough and Luton recently but hasn’t pulled up any trees—in fact I think he caused a bit of trouble at Posh despite starting well. He’s available and Warburton likes him, but I don’t think it’d be a smart move. Watch out.

Daryl Murphy was an underrated signing, in my opinion, and a rarity for Warburton at 30+ years old. Started brilliantly and was our top scorer for a while, but had some personal issues that hit him hard. He’s back in the squad and is a decent player when we need a big target man, and O’Neill is a fan, so I imagine he’ll be here next season.

Tendayi Darikwa, a marauding full-back, was brought in from Burnley for a couple of million. Fantastic in attack but became a poster boy for Warburton’s leaky defence. Has since improved his defensive game and is probably our first choice right-back now Sam Byram’s loan has ended. A solid player.

When we signed Liam Bridcutt I was over the moon. Couldn’t fathom why he wasn’t getting a game at Leeds, and I have no idea why he’s rotting in our reserves today—I think he’s played once all season. Was one of the first on the teamsheet under Warburton and is surplus at Forest, so I would be very surprised if he didn’t end up at QPR. Very comfortable on the ball and rarely gives it a way—plays the deep-lying midfielder role very well, breaking up attacks and starting counters. Would be a good signing.

Andreas Bouchalakis came in on a free from Olympiacos, thanks to our owner’s links there. Was an initial trial and impressed the management enough to earn a deal. Was brilliant in patches but too inconsistent. Went back to Olympiacos after Warburton got the sack and is a regular starter there.

Why did he get sacked and was it justified with hindsight?

He was the last managerial appointment by Fawaz Al Hasawi. Jesus, even writing his name still makes me feel sick. Was always going to be a dead man walking with the new Greek owners wanting to put their stamp on things, especially once they knew they had Aitor Karanka waiting in the wings. One win in seven at the end of his reign didn’t help, and neither did his approach—which was at odds with the owners’ ambitions. Warburton wanted to focus on youth, but the owners saw the frailties in our squad and tried to push for more experience—highlighted by Karanka immediately bringing in the likes of Ben Watson and Jack Colback to add some much-needed steel.

I would have given him more time, but then I always say that. I liked the football he had us playing, and it’s always great seeing young players coming through, but I don’t think it’s a recipe for getting out of this league. Warburton strikes me as an ‘underdog’ manager—he seems to thrive on low expectations and building a team over a longer period of time that he can get playing his way. Look at what he did for Brentford. Unfortunately that wasn’t the right fit for Forest, and he didn’t have time to persuade the owners otherwise. However, considering QPR’s plight, he could be perfect—if he’s allowed the time and freedom to build something.

Jack McCormick, @jack_mccormick

The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords

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onlyrinmoray added 11:47 - May 9
Thanks Clive really interesting to hear the other teams views Worryinly the "doesn't change" seems to be a consistent thread. The will do at underdog teams comment will suit us because that's what we are nowadays
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hubble added 12:58 - May 9
Gulp.
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M40R added 14:38 - May 9
Additional thanks Clive: really lively stuff.

I have a lot of sympathy for the "do Plan A" better, as many people ditch a good approach due to avoidable poor execution. A Plan B is of course necessary but perhaps some teams switch too quickly or for the wrong reasons.

The short corners / free kicks syndrome is worrying though!

But anyone who signs Clint Hill can do little wrong for me...
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CroydonCaptJack added 15:53 - May 9
Given our current situation I actually see quite a lot to be encouraged about there.
Those last two are teams expecting success whereas we are not in the short term.
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Northernr added 16:48 - May 9
And as I said in my write up on it all, it's not like Forest were great before he got there or have been any better since. He actually needed to get points there initially to avoid relegation. They were fourteenth when he left, ended up seventeenth. This year, with a huge influx of expensive players, they've finished ninth. Forest's expectations are out of whack with the fact they're a midtable team at this level - they sack a manager every year for parring the course.

With Rangers, if you're not beating Celtic you're out, but to expect a newly promoted team to compete with that Celtic team (W22 D2 of their first 24 games) was ludicrous. They, too, haven't got any better since.
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TacticalR added 19:58 - May 9
Thanks to Ian, Heart and Hand, Gary, Gareth, David and Jack.

Brentford - It's interesting that he didn't want new players. That's quite unusual.

Rangers - It sounds like there was a QPR style circus going on up there with players like Barton coming in. Astounding that anyone would buy Philippe Senderos.

Forest - I am not sure how much we can read into Forest as Hasawi was a lunatic and Marinakis is a dictator.

Warburton sounds like a stubborn man with a preferred way of doing things. That might actually work for us as we are in search of an identity on the pitch and in need of some structure off the pitch.
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timcocking added 02:37 - May 10
Having read these, i'm now worried. Please God tell me he's not going to be trying to play out from the back at Loftus Road?

Much as it's the philosophy i'd like to use, it just doesn't work with mediocre players on the world's smallest pitch.
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tsbains64 added 18:16 - May 13
could be the right manager for the club at this moment Looking forward to the team keeping possession and playing football Hope the board give him time -sounds like he ran out of it at the other clubs
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