A statistical breakdown of Mark Warburton’s usage of younger players

Mark Warburton

written by – Rangers Report

There is a sense among many supporters that after years of archaic management, Rangers are finally going to embrace a footballing philosophy that is both progressive & will breed a culture of continual growth at the club.  The hiring of Mark Warburton will likely go down as one of the best decisions made by the club since administration.  Warburton has a reputation for cultivating young talent by infusing them into the lineup & letting them learn through first team experience.

After seeing a post by @ObjectiveFooty that collected the data of all of the EPL teams when it pertains to how much time young players actually played – I decided to do the same to see if Warburton’s reputation is justified.  You can see the the original post on the EPL over at Objective Football Blog.

For this examination of Warburton’s approach to developing young players, I decided to provide some context by comparing the minutes played by Brentford players last season to how Ally McCoist/Kenny McDowall/Stuart McCall distributed playing time last season for Rangers.  I also included the data for Hearts to validate the belief that you can develop young players & win at the same time.

Mark Warburton, courtesy of Getty Images

Following the model that @ObjectiveFooty utilized, I added up all of the minutes played by every outfield player on each of the three teams.  Goalkeepers were not included in the data given that the goalkeepers enter their prime much later then outfield players.

The minutes played were cataloged & organized into three categories of players:

Pre-peak Players who were under 23 years old (22 and younger)

Peak  Players who were aged 23 to 29 years old

Post-peak Players who were aged 29 years old and older

(source:  Objective Football Blog)

Below you will see how many players featured in the first team from each age group, along with a breakdown of what percentage of the total minutes they played.

Under 23 23-28 29+ % Mins Under 23 % MIns 23-28 % Mins 29+
Brentford 9 9 5 0.39 0.43 0.18
Rangers 6 8 10 0.18 0.23 0.59
Hearts 15 9 2 0.48 0.37 0.15

As you can see, Warburton’s usage of players supports the reputation that he has brought to Ibrox.  Of the players he gave time to, 78% were 28 or younger.  For Rangers, 58% of the players were 28 or younger but they only played 41% of the minutes compared to 82% at Brentford.

Keep in mind that youngsters like Andy Murdoch, Tom Walsh, & Ryan Hardie did not see any playing time until Ally McCoist left the club.  The fact that 59% of the minutes played were by players 29 or older is further proof that Rangers completely mishandled the opportunity to use playing in the lower leagues as a chance to foster young players & give them a chance to grow in the first team.

Robbie Neilson & Ally McCoist, courtesy of Richard Lee

Given the similarities in the data between Brentford & Hearts, it is likely that Warburton will learn from Craig Levein & Robbie Neilson’s success last season.  The fact that Hearts won the league by 21 points while giving players under 23 nearly half of the minutes played is the ideal way to approach a season in the lower leagues.  The next step in the process to watch over the next couple of years for Hearts is if the club sells off some of those youngsters as they reach their peak ages?  If so, you could see a club that went from serious financial hardship to a team establishing a Scottish version of The Southampton Way.  

Rob Kiernan & Danny Wilson, courtesy of RFC

Further evidence that Mark Warburton is prepared to flip how Rangers approach building a winning side is by examining his transfer policy.  Of the 14 players that Warburton signed for Brentford – eight were under 23 years old, five were 23 to 28 & only one was 29 or older.  That equates to 93% of his signings being younger then 29.

How about Rangers transfer policy under Ally McCoist?  McCoist brought in four players during the same period of time that Warburton managed Brentford – Kenny Miller, Kris Boyd, Darren McGregor, & Marius Zaliukas.  All were 29 or older & only McGregor was not yet in his 30s.

Mark Warburton has a lot of work ahead of him but so far it appears that his signing policy will mirror what he did with Brentford.  Rob Kiernan is 24 & Danny Wilson is 23.  The potential signing of 35 year old John Eustace will likely be an outlier to Warburton’s normal approach.  Bringing in Eustace would address the void of leadership currently in the Rangers squad.  Warburton is going to want to put his stamp on this team by bringing in his own captain.

The times are a changin’ at Ibrox – just a little later then many supporters had hoped.

You can follow Rangers Report on Twitter @TheGersReport

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17 thoughts on “A statistical breakdown of Mark Warburton’s usage of younger players

  1. Get over it jimwankin, we’re comin tae get ye! I’lll bet anything you don’t reach 9 in a row this time, cos Aberdeen will stop you IF we don’t. You lot are getting worse every year while all the others are improving. No wonder yous are obsessed!

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  2. That’s interesting but the Rangers figures will be skewed by the ‘over-presence’ of older players. You need to do some sort of analysis on age and availability, I think.

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  3. jimlarkinJimlarkin RANGERS are the same club it is only people like you who are in denial
    tell the truth yous lot are running scared
    anyway people in glass houses should never throw stones ….BIG JOCK KNEW

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  4. While the stats show that playing younger players is definitely the way forward, we need to be careful in looking at Hearts experience last season as a magic bullet. It shouldn’t be forgotten that they had the whole of the previous season (out of necessity) to bed these players in, and they had a decidedly ropy first half of that season before they got it together. Their form in the second half was much better. Warburton does not that kind of time so he will definitely have to be more careful in deciding what game time to give to the kids.

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