IS the Rangers job too big for Mark Warburton?
At the start of the season everyone expected Celtic would win the league title. With the superior financial and playing resources available to them, that much was a given.
What we didn’t bank on was them being possibly TWENTY points clear of the Light Blues heading into the New Year.
Yet that is the very situation we find ourselves in just now.
Should Rangers and Celtic win all their games up until Hogmanay and the Hoops come out on top in the derby – an outcome that hardly requires a leap of faith – that is where we will be.
And it could be worse.
As their midweek defeat at Tynecastle showed, this Rangers side faces a significant challenge to finish even in runners-up spot.
Hearts and Aberdeen will both fancy themselves over the long haul to head them off.
That would not be acceptable to a support who, in fairness, had done a good job accepting the bitter pill that there would be no challenge worthy of the name to their great rivals this season.
All of which underlines the tremendous pressure that falls on any Old Firm manager.
We heard from Ronny Deila recently of the anxiety attacks and insomnia he suffered while he was in charge of Celtic.
The Norwegian spoke of feelings of desperation that his side HAD to win individual games.
And that was with a team that comfortably won the league!
For the failures, admission of psychological problems aren’t always required.
Tony Mowbray’s woes were etched all over his face before a 4-1 loss to St Mirren in Paisley saw him hustled him out the door to be replaced by Neil Lennon.
The latter looked diminished by his experiences in the east end of Glasgow but is now looking a happy confident boss with Hibs.
It is a fact that even if you are doing a decent job of challenging the other half of the Old Firm, there will still be criticism. That is just the nature of the game.
Even when you’re winning, as manager of Celtic or Rangers, there is always the danger standards will fall and you’ll suffer because the comparison will hurt you.
John Greig is a good example.
He took over after the team I played in had won the Treble. He nearly delivered it himself in 1978-79, won two Scottish Cups and two League Cups in his handful of seasons in charge.
But, with no title won over the period, he had to go.
An additional problem for the current Rangers manager, and one most people didn’t forsee, is the extent to which Brendan Rodgers has grown into his role across the city.
From the initial shock of the loss to the Red Imps in Gibraltar, the former Liverpool boss has barely put a foot wrong.
A lucrative Champions League group place was secured, and in the ties themselves Manchester City were held to an impressive 3-3 draw.
The League Cup has already been won, and the Treble itself looks almost nailed on.
More than that, too, Rodgers has Celtic fans purring about the quality of the football they are watching, with the likes of Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong and Craig Gordon all rejuvenated under his charge.
All of which has made him more confident in his role and strengthened his bargaining position when he goes to Dermot Desmond and the board for the additional cash he needs to bring in new players.
New players who will, of course, make it even harder for their domestic rivals to catch up.
As this is the biggest job he has ever taken on, we don’t know how Mark Warburton will cope with the demands.
One thing is certain, he won’t need a 20-point gap to red flag the scale of the task ahead.
He must be aware of that already.
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