You need to have thick skin to work in football. And Queens Park Rangers boss Mark Warburton has that in abundance.
A right-back by trade until a cruciate knee ligament injury curtailed his playing career, Warburton was working as a City currency trader before turning to coaching full-time in his early 40s to make a crack of it.
QPR boss Mark Warbuton spoke exclusively with talkSPORT earlier this week in a wide-ranging interview And that he has. Academy manager, first-team coach, sporting director – you name the role and he’s done it.
Having previously been in charge of two clubs that possess the stature which Rangers and Nottingham Forest have, Warburton knows all too well the pressure, expectation and relentless nature that comes with being a manager.
Following an acrimonious departure from the Scottish giants in February 2017, Warburton’s phone number was leaked online.
That resulted in him being bombarded with close to 1,000 abusive text messages – some too explicit and harrowing for him to go into detail about.
Steve Bruce revealed to talkSPORT on Thursday that he’s received vile death threats in recent weeks from some Newcastle fans who want him out of the club – another thing that sadly resonates with Warburton.
He still gets occasional abusive tweets now from disgruntled Rangers fans who believe he walked out of the club – which he maintains was not the case – but Warburton is keen to stress they are a ‘very small minority’.
He is not a bitter man – in fact far from it. He is proud of his achievements at Rangers – securing a league and cup double by winning the Championship title and Scottish Challenge Cup in his first season in charge.
A signed shirt from his time at the club sits proudly on a wall in his home office.
Having followed up his stint in Scotland with a disappointing nine-month spell at the City Ground, Warburton is now approaching two years in charge of QPR.
Warburton has experienced the kind of death threats that Steve Bruce has received online in recent weeks It hasn’t been easy at QPR – in fact far from it. Warburton’s position came under increased scrutiny before Christmas following a winless run of seven matches. There were many QPR fans out there who wanted him sacked.
So did Warburton fear for his future amid that speculation?
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT this week, he said: “If I was 38 or 40 I’d be sitting here very concerned because there are very few jobs out there for British managers.
“But I’m not. I’m 58 years of age and I go to work every day and do the best I can do. I know I’ve got a proven track record; I’ve got promotions and a reputation for developing young players.
“Therefore for me if a club wants to make a change then I can wake up in the morning safe in the knowledge I’ve done the best I can do – no problem.”
Warburton believes some fans’ expectations are unrealistic at the current time, with QPR occupying a bottom six budget in the Championship.
He continued: “The expectation of Rangers fans is that QPR should be a Premier League club. At Nottingham Forest they were saying they were European champions – it was 40 years ago.
“I want QPR to go as high as they can – of course I do. But you look at the average size of the crowd – and going back many, many years as well – they’re not the same size fanbase as an Aston Villa for example.
Warburton believes QPR fans’ expectations are too high – especially in the current climate “You have to deal with the expectation. Some people say we should be pushing for the play-offs – but our budget is a bottom six one in terms of this division.
“Les (Ferdinand) and Lee (Hoos) have worked very hard to reduce the overall budget. Now with the coronavirus situation and no fans coming through the door, it’s even harder. People are ignoring the fact no revenue is coming into clubs.”
He wishes to clarify recent reports that have circulated in the press stating that his contract at QPR expires at the end of the season.
“I keep reading that my contract expires at the end of the season – that’s absolute nonsense,” he explained.
“It’s just the media, it’s speculation. There’s no truth in that. Managers have different types of contracts now – be that target driven, incentive driven or what not.
“It can also just be a normal rolling contract which continues going on and on until you’re told otherwise.”
Pressed on whether he still believes he’ll be QPR boss next season, Warburton responded: “I’ve got a contract and I’ve got no reason to believe otherwise.
“You’ve got to have very thick skin to work in football. The same people who say you’re doing a fantastic job are the same people who say you should be sacked six weeks later.
Joe Lumley came off Twitter following relentless fan abuse “That’s the nature of the industry we’re in. People love controversy. If you don’t do your job to the best of your ability then expect to face the music, but time is the one commodity you need at a football club.
“Social media has changed the whole landscape for football players and football managers. It’s now a completely different animal. Speculation and rumours are rife and it all develops so quickly.”
Warburton has had to bite his tongue on social media on more than a few occasions. He was left disgusted after Rs goalkeeper Joe Lumley deleted his Twitter account last year after a constant stream of abuse.
Former Rangers midfielder Josh Scowen also deactivated his account during his stint in west London, while the ex-Brentford boss believes the criticism aimed in Lee Wallace’s direction online has been excessive.
“It’s appalling that young players (like Joe) who are working so hard in such a brutal profession should be open to such abuse,” Warburton says, shaking his head.
“What sort of person would go on to a keyboard and level abuse on a match performance for example, a mistake or two defeats in a row?
#BREQPRThe comments from individuals who felt it’s acceptable to post vile personal abuse @QPR keeper Joe Lumley… so toxic, Joe followed Josh Scowen by deleting his Twitter account.!My heart goes out to Joe & Josh.As for the abusers, be ashamed… you don’t speak for me!
— Joe Hylton🏴 (@JoeHylton1) January 12, 2020
That Joe Lumley has been hounded off Twitter after the same happened to Josh Scowen is appalling. A disservice to the club and a shameful dereliction of fans’ responsibility to help players they purport to support. Embarrassing. #QPR
— Angus Taylor (@Angus_Taylor_7) January 13, 2020
“To my mind that type of person is in a very small minority. There are so many good football fans out there who live and breathe the game and properly back their clubs.
“If it is say one and a half/two per cent who are the keyboard warriors and think they’ve got the right to abuse players, then why would you listen to idiots like that? They’re total morons.
“The human in you wants to respond to them, but it’s the same keyboard warriors who would be waiting outside the stadium for their autographs.”
Highlighting Lumley’s abuse, Warburton added: “I was so angry that a good young guy who is working hard in this tough profession should have to accept that level of abuse.
“All of us only learn by our mistakes. He went away to Doncaster and I thought that was a really important loan for him to show his quality and rebuild his confidence.
‘He’s a very, very talented goalkeeper. He’s a great lad, a great personality who loves his football and works hard every day. I can’t speak highly enough about him.”
While this abuse is prevalent online, Warburton has also witnessed it himself first hand – recalling an incident that occurred when he was travelling back home to see his family while he was in charge of Rangers.
“I remember being in the queue for the British Airways flight and a bloke in front of me was saying, ‘if Warburton had made that substitution, we’d have won by more’. The game finished 2-1 in our favour,” Warburton explained.
Warburton has fond memories of his time at Rangers – despite his acrimonious exit “He then goes his substitutions were this, that should happen to him, and if I saw him I’d do that to him.
“The same guy on the plane comes up and asks for an autograph when he sees I’m two rows ahead of him.
“I looked at him – he was probably 25 years of age – and I said, ‘what job do you do Monday to Friday? Why do you think it’s OK for you to level that type of abuse at someone?’
“I worry about the younger players. You get the racism that poor Bright (Osayi-Samuel) received.
“It can’t be right that social media companies allow people to get away with this. We’ve got to eradicate this from the game and society.
“Bright dealt with it fantastically well, but that person should be getting a tough punishment – I can’t say on here what I think should happen to them.”
Les Ferdinand’s role as director of football has been a constant topic of discussion among QPR fans for several years, with many questioning the purpose of his position at the club.
So is that particular role a necessity for a club like QPR? Seemingly taken aback by the question, Warburton responded: “A director of football is an absolutely essential role.
“I’m amazed by people who call themselves football supporters who try and put forward a case to say it’s a worthless role.
QPR fans have questioned Les Ferdinand’s position as director of football
“When you look at the contractual situations, dealing with agents, keeping in close contact with the board and recruitment staff – Les has got his hands full.
“I’ve done that job when Uwe Rosler was the manager at Brentford. I enjoyed that role and it allowed me to learn massive amounts about how the game works in terms of the role agents play, the right deals, the approach you can adopt and the environment you want to create.
“The director of football’s role with the manager is absolutely paramount to all football clubs moving forward.”
So how does Warburton assess his time in charge of the club so far?
“We came in during a time of financial difficulty,” Warburton begins. “On the first day we had to remove some good players and high earners.
“One of those was Jake Bidwell, who I know very, very well, but unfortunately I couldn’t keep him.
“We had a lot of players coming in during that first year and I think we developed the squad, established a philosophy and we had a good league finish, in terms of the budget and taking the previous season into account.
“But then you lose the likes of Nahki (Wells, Jordan (Hugill) and Ebere (Eze) and a lot of goals go out of the team; there was a lot of turnover with this team at the start of this season.
Charlie Austin’s return has given the Rs a major lift – winning four of their last five league games “I’m really pleased with the development we’ve made, especially over the past six to eight weeks. We’re showing we’re starting to settle down and be defensively more resilient in the process.
“I love working with young players and my track record will tell you that. But the Championship is such a brutally demanding league, so you need some experienced professionals like Charlie (Austin) and Stefan (Johansen) around the place.”
So what would be represent a good season for Warburton in 2020/21?
“If we finish in the top half of the table and push for the top 10 – with a bottom six budget – I think that would be a really solid season,” Warburton revealed.
“I know I’m in a privileged position. The key for me is that I’ve got to get up every morning and know that I am valued and that I can add some value (to QPR).
“You have to go to bed knowing you have been the best you can be. I don’t want to sound like I’m preaching some holier than now approach, but sometimes when you hear (about) managers and players that don’t commit themselves fully; you deserve what you get – simple as that.
“Be the best you can be every day in your life, then hopefully things will turn out alright for you in the end.”