Why Rangers are so far behind – is Gordon Strachan onto something?


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.


  1. Agreed. Lets have John Greig and Tam Forsyth, Terry Hurlock, Kevin Muscat and Graham Roberts.Winners one and all. Opposition always knew their place playing against these gentlemen.

  2. Think it's a load of tosh myself, easily blew his own theory by mentioning there was only one team smaller- Spain.

    And he was the one picking the Anyas, Bannens and Forrests anyway!

    If you watched the Slovenians, they were technically streets ahead of most of our players and most European sides are the same.

    Need to take a leaf out of Iceland's book and reinvent our game here. It's not rocket science, but sadly way out of the capabilities of dysfunctional units like the SFA and SPFL.

    As for us, you can't tell me that Jack and Alves couldn't mix it up. Dorrans needs a bit more bite maybe and yes, overall I agree there isn't a massive physical presence there, but for every John Brown you need a Laudrup.

    I would argue with your Walter list there too- Papac? He was a great player, but very slender. Not sure Edu and Bocanegra billed themselves as hard men either.

    I think the issue is deeper and probably revolves around too many new (and foreign) players at once. I would want us to be looking at Scandinavia and Eastern Europe for young prospects, as well as Scotland and not Latin countries where the climate and more importantly, the football, are very different.

  3. I've been saying that for ages . We're getting bullied by just about every team we come up against , especially Celtic . We need more physical players , but they must also have a good level of skill . The typical German model of big , fit , skillful players , playing under a good coach with tactical awareness , is the route we should go down to get back to the top . I've never seen Gers teams so weak in physicality as the teams we've produced since administration . No way would we have had this happen under Souness , Walter or big Eck .

  4. Rangers have committed to a European style of play over the past few years & when it finally clicks the rest of the SPL will be eating our dust & the SFA will be clamouring to call our players up to the national squad. The days of a good big yin are coming to an end & the era of pace and technique are slowly being ushered in and rangers are at the tip of that spear in Scotland, why bully when we can bedazzle? Sure some results wont go our way but when we get to where we're going we'll be leaps and bounds ahead of the rest. The futures bright guys, WATP!!!

    • Lol. Ive read your comment 3 times now and i still cant decide if your a celtic fan on the wind up or completely crazy

    • I just don't live in the fishbowl anymore and watch the games with people from different countries who also say Rangers try to play a different brand of football, unlike Celtic who are quite happy to play the ball between the back 4 & the keeper for long periods, or park the bus like the lesser teams do. I'm an optimist & also very patient so im willing to sacrifice a few years for things to go right instead of reverting to throwing money at somebody with a fancy name & a good physique.

  5. I agreed that our current squad is too small and lightweight. Look at Rangers in 2004. We had a terrible season then we invested and brought in big players like Pros, Boumsong, Kyrgiakos, Big Marv and then Alex Rae to ad some steel. We then went on to win the league. To win in Scotland you always need a big solid spine of the team.

  6. When Martin O'Neill took over Celtic he said that the team was far too small and the Scottish game needed big bruisers in key positions especially strikers and central defenders. Hartson, Sutton and Balde were among his first signings.

  7. You head quality and toughness but as we found out when nine in a row we had both the one thing you need more is that what is missing in abundance ( money ) while we were in minor leagues Celtic were building a war chest to buy anything better than we could no doubt that was the plan when the vote was made for rangers to go to lowest level Celtic played it smart for once and the rest just went with them

  8. At first game of last season before kick off I turned to my brother and said we are too wee. Hamilton have giants. Think Arsenal. Midfield. Vierra Petit etc. That is norm. Strachan is right. We need big guys but also technically good..Willie Henderson and Jimmy Johnstone would be kicked to death these days.

  9. I made a similar comment in regards to herrera. Mexico had the 2nd smallest team at the 2006 world cup and most of their players play in Mexico. I was under the impression herrera was a big target man who was great in the air. He might have been that in Mexico against 5 foot 9 players but not in Scotland against 6 foot plus players. Might be coincidence but I think it could play apart. As for rangers, we lose a lot of goals from set plays and I don't think we are tall or strong enough in certain areas, especially CM.

  10. Callum Patterson and John Souttar would have been good, physical options for us (and may still be in future?) who are at the right age with a lot of development still there for us to benefit from.

    Agree with the earlier comment, that we should be scouting Eastern Europe for young prospects instead of Latin America.

  11. He talks rubbish. Stupid Scottish football where only the big kids get to play. Wasn’t he part of one of the best times in Scottish football? He and a number of the other players at the time weren’t big but were successful. Maybe he should stop picking Celtic and Aberdeen only players and anyone that plays in England… the English leagues aren’t as good as they think

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