Mark Warburton – the Renaissance Man of Football

Mark Warburton, courtesy of Keith Campbell

written by – Greville Waterman 


Greville Waterman is the author of Ahead of the Game:  Brentford FC’s 2014/15 Season which takes a look at the extraordinary success of what is rapidly becoming one of the most interesting football clubs in the world.  

Waterman, who also runs BFC Talk a blog that covers Brentfordagreed to share an excerpt from his book with Rangers supporters in order to provide a closer look at the man charged with returning the club to glory.

You can find copies of his book on Amazon or you can purchase it directly from Brentford’s online store. 

Mark Warburton – the Renaissance Man of Football  (originally published in September 2014)

I have just listened to Brentford manager Mark Warburton’s latest interview on Bees Player and he was in typical bullish and confident form.

He was still angry about Tuesday’s events and felt that the final score was totally misleading and that but for a referee’s blatant error our valiant efforts would most likely have received their just reward.

He focused on all the positives that came out of what was indeed an excellent team performance and hoped that they would be of benefit when it comes to Saturday’s tough challenge at Middlesbrough.

It must be wonderful for his squad to have a manager who demonstrates such positivity and encouragement in everything that he says and does.

Football managers have traditionally used a combination of carrot and stick to motivate their players, but management by fear and intimidation is now a totally outmoded concept that is doomed to failure in today’s more enlightened times.

Mark Warburton is in the vanguard of a much more modern approach where the players are treated like adults and are encouraged to buy into a much more collaborative and empowering way of doing things.

Mark Warburton, courtesy of PA Sport

That is not to say that they do not have to take full responsibility for their actions on and off the pitch, but the players know that if they follow instructions and do as they have been coached to do, then, even if things go wrong, they know that their manager will back them to the hilt.

Tuesday was a case in point as Norwich City’s first goal came when our short passing approach broke down close to our goal and our opponents took full advantage of the unforced error.

Rather than blast James Tarkowski for playing what was generally accepted to be a sloppy pass that conceded possession in a dangerous position, Warburton instead backed his young defender to the hilt and made it clear that our style of play would not alter one iota.

I suspect that in private he spoke to Tarkowski and reminded him of the need to maintain concentration and exhibit more care in his passing, but that is all part of the learning process.

The Brentford squad is packed full of promising young talent who are all comfortable on the ball and in Warburton they have the perfect manager, a patient teacher who is steeped in the development of young players who always encourages them to play and express themselves without fear of failure.

Alex Pritchard, courtesy of BFC

Here is midfielder Alex Pritchard on what it is like to play for Mark Warburton, “Mark Warburton is a very good manager and he is great with the players.”

“He expects a lot from you but I’m really enjoying playing under him.  He is always trying to help me improve and I can feel myself learning from him.”

His squad also fully understands that beneath the calm exterior, Warburton is neither weak nor a soft touch, and if players do not perform then they will not keep their place in the team, and he has also made it perfectly clear on many occasions that he is always looking to revitalise and improve the makeup of the squad.

Players accept this as a way of life and as long as they are treated fairly then they will respond.

Indeed twelve new players of immense talent have come through the door since the end of last season but the nucleus of last year’s promotion team has been retained given that players of the ilk of Button, Bidwell, Tarkowski, McCormack, Judge and Douglas have demonstrated that they are fully capable of meeting the tough challenge of playing Championship football.

Should they fail to do so in the future and let their standards drop, then they know that they will be replaced, such is the way of football.

courtesy of RFC

Warburton has also emphasised that his office door is always open if players want to discuss why they aren’t playing and what is required of them if they are to regain their first team place.

In other words he treats his players like adults and they therefore respond well and behave like adults too.

Whilst such a collaborative and open door policy is commonplace in business and industry, that is not necessarily the case in football where dialogue between players and management is often not encouraged and sometimes even frowned upon.

In his recent book, Brentford goalkeeper Richard Lee highlighted the fact that the players found it almost impossible to talk to former manager Andy Scott who would keep things extremely close to his chest and would never explain the rationale for his selection decisions to his squad.

The team was never announced until an hour before the kick off when the unlucky squad players not required for the match would learn their fate and then slope off out of the dressing room.

You shouldn’t treat anybody in that manner, and certainly not highly skilled professionals who are about to go out and perform on a public stage.

How were players expected to prepare for, and psyche themselves up for a match when they did not even know if they were playing until just beforehand?

In my opinion, you reap what you sow and once things turned sour and results deteriorated I can well understand why Scott was eventually thrown to the wolves after a truly shocking and spineless performance one horrible night at Dagenham.

Mark Warburton is simply treating his players as he would want and expect to be treated himself, and he too had a bad experience in his short playing career when he came under the direction of Jock Wallace, a fearsome man of the old school who had a one size fits all approach to managing his players and whose bark was just as bad as his bite.

courtesy of Getty Images

Warburton learned how not to do things and has also applied the lessons of man management learned during his many years spent working in the city.

The way he handled the difficult Adam Forshaw situation when he put him on gardening leave and made it perfectly clear that unless the player was prepared to commit himself to the club then there was no place for him in the squad, showed great strength of character and determination.

Forshaw did indeed leave the club, but only when we were ready for him to do so, on our terms, for a club record transfer fee and after he had been replaced.

Good and decisive management yet again.

Personally I feel that Brentford have lucked into having a truly exceptional man at their helm given that Mark only took over the job after Uwe Rosler’s unexpected departure to Wigan.

He is a man of intelligence and vision, whose fresh approach, open mindedness, positivity and determination that we express ourselves in every match we play and never show fear, has stimulated a fantastic response from his team who totally believe in him – as do we supporters.

Mark Warburton is indeed a true Renaissance man of football.

You can follow Greville Waterman on Twitter @grevwaterman & read his ongoing coverage of Brentford at BFC Talk.  You can find copies of his book on Amazon or you can purchase it directly from Brentford’s online store. 

3 thoughts on “Mark Warburton – the Renaissance Man of Football

  1. An interesting insight. I suspect, as you say, that there are some weaknesses and blind spots.

    But when you have been through three years as we just have, he is coming across like a new Messiah!

    Right now, we will take him warts and all. In the future, when he has made us forget the bad times, we may be less forgiving, but that is quite a way ahead


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