Scotland manager “wee” Gordon Strachan today made what initially seemed a barmy comment about Scotland being ‘genetically behind’.
His theory was that, just like his own moniker, Scotland are simply too small, and it is the bigger, tougher teams who always prevail over us.
This does seem ridiculous on the surface – his own argument admitted the brilliance of Spain and they too are hardly known for being man giants. And yet, when we take this argument into the Celtic dominance of the domestic game, and Rangers being so far behind, it does have a shred of truth to it.
Far from me saying Celtic are the best in Scotland because they are big – that would be a preposterous comment. There is more to it than that.
But there is little doubt, going back to the Martin O’Neill days, that the East End have tended to pack their team with big guys, strong fellows, men mountains (Balde, Mjallby, Valgaeren, Lennon) – in short, massive physical specimens, and this has made them absolute bullies to everyone else.
In their team today we see a bunch of titans – Rogic, Brown, Sviatchenko – big or muscular chaps who basically bully their opponents with great ease.
Meanwhile we look at Rangers – can we name a single player, outwith the tank that is Morelos, who could qualify as a ‘unit’? Midfield is made up of medium men like Candeias, Jack, Dorrans, Windass with a defence comprised of pace merchants like Tavernier, Wallace and John – none of whom really stand out as especially strong. And for one known as a tough guy, Bruno Alves has not lived up to the billing at all.
Is it any wonder Rangers cannot compete with Celtic when most of our players are lightweights to their heavyweights?
In truth, we are struggling to compete with the better teams in the SPL, and as my colleague Richard has pointed out a few times, they compete with our supposed football ability by bullying us physically. Hibernian and Hearts both did it – it does tread the line between legal and non legal, but the problem is Rangers struggle to dish it back at all.
Strachan’s ‘genetic inferiority’ may have been a strange way to put it, but physicality counts for a lot in football.
Rangers’ best teams of the past always had strong guys among the quality – Walter’s most recent strong team had tough lads like Edu, Jelavic, Bocanegra, Papac, Cousin, Darcheville, and younger stronger Kris Boyds and Kenny Millers – true, perhaps not absolute colossi like Celtic maybe are today, but still bigger and stronger than anyone else back then.
But now? Not a single hard man really in the entire team.
To cope in the SPL you must be strong. Rangers lack a of lot of things, and it might just be physical power is a significant one of them.