Exclusive Interview: Mark Warburton

James Rowe for The Secret Footballer

JR  ‘'Hi Mark, many thanks for talking to me at TSF this morning.  QPR have made a pretty impressive start to the season, top scorers in the Championship.  This is a club with expectations after all…

MW  ''Obviously Queens Park Rangers FC is a club with history and I knew it when I was younger.  When Frank McLintock was captain of the club I had the privilege of coming along to watch Dave Sexton's team.  So I had links to QPR and I knew all about them.  The club itself had been relegated from the Premier League and I went there and I think it is fair to say - and I am not being disrespectful - but the club had a reputation, as many clubs do, of changing managers quickly.  Steve McClaren who was a very successful manager had moved on and so I came to the club knowing that the player situation was changing and the fans are of course expectant.

So it was about getting the balance right and about changing the squad quickly, which we had to do, and about building.  We finished 19th in the Championship and then 13th and then 9th and we have got to keep building, but in terms of enjoying it, I think that we are in a very privileged position to be involved in football.  We can moan about not getting the right players, bad fixtures or referees but we are very privileged and fortunate to be involved in this game.

I am happy here at Queens Park Rangers F.C and I am enjoying it and we have had a good start to the season, but we must also be aware that there are another 39 games to go.’'

JR  ‘’Let's talk about how your own playing career shaped the manager you are today, because you had a stellar lower league career with the likes of Enfield FC and Boreham Wood FC, very decent teams at that level.

MW  ''I have lowlights and highlights.  As a kid at school I was lucky because I was one of those kids who found sport very easy, be it running, basketball, high jump… I was also a track and cross country runner, along with tennis and golf.  I was very lucky and the mistake I probably made was to become a jack of all trades and master of none.

I love football to death and I loved playing football at every opportunity but I found myself playing football on a Saturday morning and doing cross country running on a Sunday afternoon… it was ludicrous when I look back.  I was an average, lower league conference player but I enjoyed my time at Enfield FC and I was part of a very good team that won trophies *

The memory from my playing career that has stuck with me was when Jock Wallace, who was my manager when I was a young apprentice professional at Leicester City.  Years down the road I followed Jock to Glasgow Rangers FC, which was quite surreal.  Jock had a reputation and a fantastic CV but he was an old fashioned coach and ex marine who was tough as nails. And that was his way, I lost my love of the game very quickly in terms of that, and… this may sound deep from a 17 year old… but I can be honest with you and swear to this day that I would never coach like that.

I went off the game and into conference football and then into a banking career which is a highly competitive environment.  I threw all my energy into that but I learned a lot about making players enjoy their training sessions and how to treat people.

Jock Wallace had a fantastic career and I learned from that experience and in recognising that I was an average conference player and I am not as good as the guys that I work with here for sure, but at least I knew my level and I knew too that I was very good in The City, and so I threw my energies into that field.”

JR  ‘’Brentford is perhaps where the two paths cross.  It’s widely recognised in the game that what you learned in the City and applied to football at Brentford, set the club on their current course…”

MW  ''I have many highlights from my time at Brentford FC James, and I am very proud of what we achieved at the club. I arrived at the club in January 2011 after the owner Matthew Benham had removed the previous manager Andy Scott.  Brentford was my first experience of working solely with first team players and, again, it was creating an environment and treating people with respect while putting a structure in place that the players would respond really well too.

We were 18th in League One when I took over and we finished 9th that season which was steady.  I wanted the job permanently but Matthew hired Uwe Rösler and I was made Director of Football.  I was in charge of the first team and academy and I had a fantastic two years of learning that position, how to deal with agents and putting a structure in place which allowed me to get the environment right for the staff.

I am really proud that Neil Greig and Chris Haslam who we hired back then, are still there and doing so well with Brentford FC in the Premier League, that is a proud aspect of my time as Director of Football.  We won promotion alongside Wolverhampton Wanderers, people perhaps underestimated us, but we had a really good season in the Championship where we came 5th.  I think right at the death the players probably… they didn’t exactly lose belief, but they suddenly realized how near they were to the promised land.

They came up the previous year and they were favourites for relegation, but every player to a man did an outstanding job.  And people like my assistant, David Weir, are top people and they should be very proud of what they achieved that year… but right at the death against Middlesbrough FC we just fell short.

Even so, it was a great learning curve and I learned an awful lot from Matthew and the club and what happened at the end happened… but I had five really educational, enjoyable years that I am very proud of.”

JR  ‘’There's also the matter of managing a fairly well known club north of the border… In Britain, it doesn’t get much bigger than Glasgow Rangers does it?

MW  ‘'I have many highlights from my time at Glasgow Rangers.  I think the right way to describe it is that I was privileged to manage a club like that who are an institution and who are one of the brands of global football.  To be involved and manage in the Rangers v Celtic Old Firm games, and to have the experiences that I had there… I feel very privileged and proud.  The club were in the Scottish Championship and I was given a remit of promotion.  The term the board used was, “non negotiable.”

And we got promoted with a double figure points clearance, and we beat Celtic FC in that famous semi-final, and we won the Scottish League Cup as well.  We also reached the Cup Final, so there is much to be proud of.

Glasgow Rangers are a huge club and I must say that they are a club that I will never forget, it gets in your blood very quickly, actually it’s quite incredible just how quickly it does get into your blood.  I made many good friends during my time there and there is a level of passion for the game which I haven't seen rivalled down here in England.  Whatever they say about Spurs v Arsenal - and I am a Spurs fan born in Tottenham - or Manchester City v Manchester United, nothing has come close to the Old Firm game.  There is an incredible level of passion for the game.

I was very disappointed with how it ended.  The way in which we were treated was poor, but the memories will only ever be fond, and so you have to look back and feel very privileged to have been in that position.  When you are standing there at Ibrox Stadium, which is a magnificent stadium, and you have 50,000 passionate bluenose fans, you feel a very lucky man to be in that position.

So my feeling will always be one of pride, I worked hard alongside David Weir, and Frank and Jim Stewart are really good people too, we worked tirelessly for those two years and the success that we achieved came off the back of a really strong worth ethic.

I hope very much that people can see the role that we played in moving the club forward.”

JR  ‘’I've no doubt that they do Mark, they have very long memories north of the border!

Mark, thanks so much for giving me your time today, I really appreciate it, and I think it’s important for people to read about the pivotal role you play at clubs looking to take the next step.  To that end, you must be desperate to be the one that enjoys the long term fruits of your labour, do you think you’ll get that chance at QPR?

MW  ''From a managerial perspective I would love to manage in the Premier League, but that is a given for most managers.  I want to do my very best in the Championship, time is the one commodity you need as a manager and I have got it here at Queens Park Rangers F.C.

We are building a squad and I would love to manage it in the Premier League.  The bigger picture, I think, is how I am lucky to have had a different background in terms of working in financial markets for more than twenty years.  You look very closely at your time even though financial markets is a young man's game with very long hours and big pressure, but I always think to myself that everyone has a window, a time window, when it is your moment and that might last five, ten or twenty years.

I do think that I have got another window after this one and I hope that I succeed in the Premier League.  Once I finish managing I would like to think that I have got a role to play in some way that can help shape the game.  I don't mean that in an arrogant way but I would love to be in a Director of Football role, a manager role or even a committee type role where you can actually have some influence on the game moving forward.  That is really important for me.

When I left The City I couldn't just be - and I am not saying this disrespectfully - an Under 14's coach at a club.  I would have to be in a position where I have more responsibility because of what I did in The City, and I like to think that when this window closes for me, another window will open that allows me to have some sort of responsibility and accountability for helping the game move forward.”

*  During Mark’s time with Enfield FC the club won the Middlesex Senior Cup in 1980-81, the FA Trophy in 1981-82 and the Football Conference in 1982-83


James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.