July 16, 2015
Being manager of Rangers can feel like having your head trapped in a vice. As the pressure builds, it becomes ever more difficult to see things in perspective.
It is a predicament which Mark Warburton is almost sure to find himself in somewhere down the line at Ibrox and one which demands the support of wise and trusted lieutenants.
An often lonely road lies ahead for the 52-year-old Englishman. He will need help and sound counsel. In David Weir, though, McLeish believes Warburton has selected an ideal man with whom to ride the rollercoaster that lies ahead.
Weir went through it all as a player during five remarkable years at Rangers, captaining the club to his third league title in the week of his 41st birthday, appearing in a European final and even getting into a grappling match with Gary Caldwell at the end of a typically crazy Old Firm derby at Parkhead.
He has surfed the highs, handled the lows and even lost the plot from time to time. Warburton will draw heavily on that experience of the Glasgow goldfish bowl as the pair bid to rebuild Rangers into a side of Champions League standard.
Serving as the figurehead of Rangers will be quite unlike anything Warburton has experienced before and McLeish admits he is waiting for his Ibrox regime to begin with bated breath.
"There are two kinds of pressure at Rangers,” said the 56-year-old, who won two league championships and five cups in four-and-a-half years as boss. "If Mark gets off to a good start, he will find that it turns from being absolutely vice-like to something you are happier dealing with.
"If you are winning, you have to keep winning every single week and that is the mentality you have to drill into the players every day.
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"In those circumstances, you have to keep on top of everything. The backroom staff will be important and Davie, in particular, because he knows what it takes to be a winner there.
"When it is not going so well at a club such as Rangers, though, it can really drain the life out of you. There is no doubt about it. I was certainly a little bit drained at the end of my time as manager.
"We had a decent end to that season and maybe that is because I had already agreed with David Murray that I would be leaving, but the pressure up to then really was like being trapped in a vice. It is all about being able to come through that.
"I received loads of different opinions about how it was going to be before I took the job at Ibrox, but nothing prepares you. You have to go through the experience, you need big cojones and your mentality needs to be right.
"When results are not going your way, you need your backroom team to be honest with you. They can tell you that someone in the team should not be playing or suggest someone who should be.
"You cannot be stubborn. You can’t see everything in that job and, sometimes, you really can’t see the wood for the trees.
"It is why the influence of very close assistants can help so much.
"I know just how exacting it is and Davie will know it from his days as a player.
"I think it will definitely be beneficial to Mark to have Davie there. If Mark had brought someone else in, there may have been more questions about him from people, but having Davie there softens that.”
Warburton’s reign begins next Tuesday with a home friendly against Burnley, but it is the first competitive match of the season at Easter Road against Hibernian in the Petrofac Training Cup that will see the former Brentford manager’s methods placed firmly under the microscope.
McLeish, like Warburton, is a confident man with some pedigree. He knows, however, that there will be all kinds of doubts going through the Rangers manager’s mind before it all starts for real.
"All kinds of things go through your mind before your first game, all the positives and the negatives,” he said.
"When I took over from Dick Advocaat, I had people telling me I was taking on a poisoned chalice. I felt it was a real challenge and knew how great it would be if I could make things better, but there is a little negative voice in your mind asking what will happen if you don’t win a trophy, don’t win an Old Firm match, don’t win a game at all.
"You don’t want to be a failure at Rangers. People expect you to win just because it is Rangers.
"It is a job that really tests you right to the very edge of your talents and mentality.
"I got off to a good start in my first game and it is very, very important for Mark to sow some seeds and show everyone what is taking shape there.
"It is a great test in that very first game because the expectations that exist at Hibs will have grown as well.”
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