Mark Warburton has cautioned against Rangers “spending recklessly” to try to close the competitive gap with Celtic.
The Ibrox side lost 1-0 to their Old Firm rivals in the League Cup semi-final, and Warburton acknowledged the financial advantage that Celtic hold.
He insists that Rangers need to spend wisely rather than fall prey to short-term thinking, though.
“The worst thing Rangers could do is spend recklessly to try to close that gap too quickly,” Warburton said.
“There is a financial gap that exists at this moment in time. They [Celtic] have a squad packed with international players. They are in the Champions League this year and are getting all the benefit of that in terms of playing experience and financial income.
“We recognise and respect that. We then have to sit down and decide how do we close it? How do we improve our squad? Can we invest astutely and wisely?
“We have to set aggressive targets to try and close the gap. If our supporters can see that we will be in a good place.
“I read some ludicrous comments this morning about how my City background should make me aware of the power of financial muscle. I’m not a rocket scientist but I’m not a fool.
“Of course you recognise the implications of a rival club with a strong financial base at this moment in time. But what is also important is the target setting so we know what we have to do in what time frame in what gap.
“The worst thing we could do is not build strong foundations here, and from the chairman and the board down the club is very clear what we have to do.”
Rangers have lost twice to Celtic this season, but Warburton insisted after the semi-final defeat at Hampden that the gap between the two sides had narrowed since September’s 5-1 loss at Celtic Park in the league.
Warburton signed 11 new players in the summer, but only four – Matt Gilks, Lee Hodson, Clint Hill and Josh Windass – started against Celtic on Sunday. Joe Garner, the most expensive arrival following his £1.5m move from Preston, was on the bench while the club’s highest-paid player, Joey Barton, remains suspended by the club following disciplinary breaches.
No quick fix for Rangers – Souness
Former Rangers manager Graeme Souness said Celtic have a five year head-start, given the time the Ibrox club spent in the lower leagues as they recovered from financial collapse.
He believes the Rangers support needs to accept that it will take time for the club to build a team strong enough to challenge for the title, but also that investment is required to improve the playing squad.
“There is a gap there, they’ve got five years on us,” Souness said. “How quickly we can catch that five years up will depend on how well we recruit and how much money Mark Warburton has to spend.
“You can be the best coach in the world, but it’s ultimately about what kind of players you have and right now Rangers are a wee bit short.
“When I say five years it doesn’t mean it will take five years to get to them, because that will depend on what players we can get in. Anyone with a modicum of common sense is going to tell you we have to be patient.
“Mark Warburton is operating with one hand tied behind his back. He’s done a fabulous job on a budget that any coach would find difficult to operate in.
“There’s no quick fix, other than someone coming up with a shed-load of money to give to the manager to go and buy a team. I don’t think that’s there.”