LIONEL MESSI will never believe it. David Weir, arguably the on-field embodiment of the “anti-football” approach the Barcelona icon once lambasted so publicly, has come out of the closet.

Weir, the central defender, was the rock at the heart of the ultra-disciplined approach which turned rearguard actions into an unlikely UEFA Cup final appearance during the Second Coming of Walter Smith at Rangers.

Weir, the assistant manager, has an altogether different plan for the future of the Ibrox club.

The early days of Mark Warburton’s reign have become known for a commitment to starting on the front foot, sticking largely to a 4-3-3 formation and endeavouring to dominate possession whilst maintaining a high tempo.

This is not just the brainchild of the manager, though. This is the way Weir believes football really should be played.

Forget what he did himself in the twilight of his career. Forget the night Messi slaughtered Smith and Weir and everyone else at Rangers after being snuffed out and frustrated during a goalless Champions League draw at Ibrox. There is no bargaining to be done.

Rangers, under Weir’s watch, will never be encouraged to take a backwards step.

"I don't think we will ever do that,” he stated. “Within it, we can be better at some of things we do and we can maybe look at things in a different way in some instances, but I know we will always go and try and win a game rather than try to wait and sneak a game.

“It's not the way Mark and I are made.

“I was a defender and enjoyed playing in the teams I played in, seeing it from different sides. It is no criticism of anybody or anything, but that's not the way we will coach, manage or run our football clubs.

“You live by the sword and die by the sword and, in our experience, it has been successful.

“We got promoted from League One into the Championship at Brentford and people told us we would have to change the way we played, but we didn't and we got relative success there. We are doing it along similar lines here.”

Weir accepts this impassioned defence of attacking football may surprise some. He insists, however, that he would have relished the opportunity to play in the kind of team he is now committed to creating and developing.

"It would be challenging,” he said. “I think it depends on whether I was 21 as opposed to 41, but I'd have enjoyed it because it's about having the ball and taking a step forward rather than step back.

“It's about trying to score rather than stop the other team scoring and it's based on logic not hope.

“The best thing is if you can explain why you are doing it and the benefits, involve people in the process. Without going into too much detail, there's a logic and reasoning about it.”

In addition to establishing a footballing philosophy, Weir and Warburton are heavily involved in rebuilding the infrastructure of the club from the bottom up. The recent appointment of Frank McParland as Head of Recruitment was an integral part of that.

The three men enjoy a special bond that dates back to their time together at Brentford. McParland was sporting director there and actually shared a flat with Weir before getting an apartment of his own in the same building in London.

They initially got to know each other when McParland was involved in the academy at Liverpool and Weir was coaching the youth and reserve teams at their city rivals, Everton. McParland is back bunking up with him until he gets his own accommodation sorted out in Glasgow.

Theirs is, in many ways, an unlikely friendship. McParland is a Liverpool fanatic. To state that he was not exactly Weir’s biggest fan when he was playing in the centre of the Everton defence is an understatement.

“He was an animal on the pitch and I used to hate watching him,” said the ebullient Scouser in an interview earlier this year. “He would come to Anfield and was such a horrible, horrible player when he was against you.”

Weir laughs when confronted with those remarks. Committed to attacking football these days or not, they are manna from heaven for the grizzled, old centre-half that still lives within him.

“I probably said something similar about him because he used to nick all the best players from Everton for Liverpool,” smiled the 45-year-old. “I’m quite happy with that perception because I wouldn’t have liked to have been known as a nice player. It is actually a compliment.

“Frank is a great guy. He’s a great personality. He loves football, he’s a great talker and he just lights the place up.

“I’m not just putting up with him, though. I’m putting him up. He has been staying with me for a while.

“He is brilliant at his job and that’s the most important thing. The three of us are close, talk a lot and have similar ideas. We all have the same view on how football should be played.

“There is an opportunity here and I think we all realise that. Mark took the job on the basis that this club can be special.”

Weir has no doubts Warburton is the ideal man to make it so. A former trader in the City of London, the 53-year-old Englishman has brought much of his business acumen to the table in football along with an ability to make big calls under the most intense pressure.

“He’s managed people and worked in industries where there is a lot at stake,” said Weir. “Football is the same.

“He brings his financial and business expertise and applies it to football, but a lot of what he says and does is common sense. I have learned a lot from him.

“He knows exactly what he wants. He is a decision-maker.

“We may have a difference of opinion in maybe who should play in the team, but I’m also conscious that Mark is the boss and their can only be one boss at a football club.”

Warburton has learned plenty from Weir, too, particularly in terms of appreciating the unique pressures that exist when working in the footballing hotbed that is Glasgow.

“Until this week, Mark had not been home for three or four weeks because it’s never-ending,” revealed Weir.

“You get wrapped up in it and it can take over your life. When you leave the training ground, you see it. When you go to the petrol station, you see it. When you go for a coffee, you see it. It is not something you can switch on and switch off very easily, but that suits Mark because he is a hard worker and he likes to get his teeth stuck into a project.

“This is a massive project and I think he has realised the significance of it and the size of it and what it possibly can be.”

Should all go plan and the Ladbrokes Championship be secured this season, Old Firm encounters will, of course, become a regular fixture in the calendar once again. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, the head coach of Molde, expressed the view recently that Celtic and Scottish football have suffered from the collapse of Rangers and the demise of the Glasgow derby. Weir is inclined to agree.

"When I first came here, Rangers and Celtic were very competitive and we were both involved in the Champions League,” he said. “I think everybody realises that Rangers and Celtic being competitive and pushing each other pulls everybody else on and stimulates each other.

“If you have that competition and that level of interest, you will attract better players. Better players make better teams and better teams give you a better chance in Europe.”

*David Weir was speaking to promote half-season tickets at Rangers with prices starting from £131 for adults, £105 for concessions and £26 for kids. Season tickets are valid from the Rangers v Hibernian game at Ibrox on Monday, December 28 and available at, by calling 0871 702 1972 or visiting the Rangers Ticket Centre.