There could hardly be more excitement surrounding the first league meeting between Celtic and Rangers since 2012. But this weekend’s almighty Ladbrokes Premiership meeting has the new subplot of old acquaintances Brendan Rodgers and Mark Warburton facing off.
So, we thought it’s time to view how these two bosses made it to their respective Glasgow giants. First, we’re off to the home dugout.
The Northern Irishman endured a sudden and sad end to his professional playing career, when knee problems ended his time at Reading at the age of just 20. But like his Rangers’ counterpart, he headed into the English Non-League, with the likes of Newport F.C. and Witney Town – while continuing to coach with the Royals.
Rodgers’ gradual rise saw him appointed manager of Chelsea Youth in 2004. And it was there that he fostered a faith in young players which has continued to the present day.
Indeed, in his crucial first game as Liverpool boss in 2012, the youth-focused gaffer fielded five players aged 22 or under, including a then-unknown 17-year-old by the name of Raheem Sterling.
But it was between those two jobs – and cities – where the 43-year-old crossed paths with Warburton, who was involved in the Watford academy when the Hoops boss was in charge of the Hornets.
However, despite doing a solid job at Watford, it was at Swansea City where Rodgers showed his big-game ability, leading the Swans up to the Premier League via the play-offs in 2012.
The most interesting clue, though, lies in how he has approached previous Derby games, especially at Liverpool.
Those matches with Everton were either bore draws (three 0-0 draws) or goal fests (a 4-0 win and a 3-3 draw), meaning it could be a savvy option to bet on both a 0-0 draw at Celtic Park this weekend at 12/1, or the game producing over 3.5 goals at 13/8.
Like Rodgers, Warburton’s grounding came as a player in English Non-League football, with spells at Enfield and Boreham Wood, following a stint as a youth player at Leicester City under the dictatorial Jock Wallace.
Interestingly, Warburton was critical of the Leicester gaffer’s methods, claiming managers should “never [start] treating a player that way.” And that rejection of a hard-lined approach has always informed the softly-spoken gaffer’s attitudes.
A man who – like his Parkhead counterpart – has played the game for love, not money, the Gers gaffer actually left a comfortable job in the City to coach at Watford, and was given the Hornets’ academy job by a certain Mr. Rodgers, and set about producing the next line of young talents with a softer approach.
Indeed, Warburton’s excellent work in producing the stars of the future saw 13 players aged 21 and under feature for the first-team in 2007-08, and interestingly, he continued to invest in young players after taking over the Brentford job, snapping up young talents like Andre Gray and Lewis Macleod.
However, at Rangers, Warburton has diverted somewhat from the youth model by snapping up experienced campaigners like Clint Hill and Joey Barton. So despite his pedigree in that area, it’s likely that Rodgers’ will go for raw talent and pace, and the Light Blues’ manager for experience and robustness.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t attack. Indeed, during Warburton’s time at Brentford, the Bees won 4-1 at Fulham during his only full season, before a 2-1 win at Griffin Park, but with this one likely to be a close-run thing, backing a score draw at 4/1 looks like it might be the best call of all.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing