Paul Newman: Scottish question still hangs over Strachan's Boro

A second home win in the space of five days has helped to lift spirits at Middlesbrough, but the big question about Gordon Strachan's recruitment strategy still hangs over the Riverside Stadium. Are the best in Scotland good enough to take Boro into the top division south of the border? When Kevin Thomson completed a £2m move from Rangers in the summer he joined five other Old Firm exiles on Teesside, Strachan having previously recruited Kris Boyd from Rangers and Scott McDonald, Barry Robson, Stephen McManus and Willo Flood from his former club, Celtic.

All six were in the starting line-up for Boro's first match of this season, a 3-1 home defeat to Ipswich Town, but only three – McDonald, Robson and McManus – played in Saturday's 3-1 victory over Reading. Thomson and Flood are injured, while Boyd, leading scorer for Rangers in all his five seasons with the club, again sat on the bench, having been dropped for the midweek win over Burnley after scoring once in his first seven appearances.

If talk of an early-season crisis is receding – Boro took only four points from their first five matches but have six from their last two – the debate over the relative merits of the Scottish Premier League and the Championship will continue. Rangers' draw at Manchester United in the Champions League last week showed Scottish football in a better light, but the wider picture is different.

Craig Brown, currently managing in the SPL with Motherwell, had two years in the Championship with Preston. "I always said when I was there that Preston would be the third best team in Scotland," the former Scotland manager said. "Preston are a lowly team in the Championship in terms of attendance and salaries. We finished in the middle of the league both times, but in my opinion we would have been good enough to finish behind Rangers and Celtic in Scotland.

"Just look at the attendances. When I was at Preston we averaged 14,000 or more. Hearts are the third best supported team in Scotland and they have an average of about 12,000. Sheffield Wednesday are in the division below the Championship and they're getting crowds of more than 20,000. That's unbelievable up here.

"The Championship is a harder, tougher league. For a start you have 46 games, which is a really demanding schedule. You have to be strong physically. The levels of physical fitness are better than those in Scotland. It's quicker. It's a better league than the SPL. I'm not knocking the Scottish game, but the best players in Scotland nearly always end up in England if they don't go to Rangers or Celtic."

Jim O'Brien, who joined Barnsley in the summer, Leeds' Ross McCormack, Bristol City's David Clarkson and Derby County's Stephen Pearson are among the former Motherwell men currently earning a living in the Championship.

"I noticed Mark McGhee, Aberdeen's manager, being quoted as saying he doesn't even look at the Championship because he can't afford Championship players," Brown said, pointing out that the Dons' recent recruits have included Scott Vernon (from Colchester United), Rory McArdle (Rochdale) and Yoan Folly (Plymouth). "And Aberdeen are one of the top four or five clubs in Scotland." Nevertheless, Brown believes that the Rangers and Celtic sides would be good enough to win promotion if they were playing in the Championship this season. "I can't imagine they would ever join the English league, but I'm sure that within a few years they would be in the top six in the Premier League if they did.

"It all comes down to television money. The bottom team in the Premier League get £30m a year. The top teams get £40m or more. Rangers get about £1.5m or £2m. Give Rangers the same resources as Blackburn or Bolton, for example, and they would be right up there at the top in England. So would Celtic."

As for Middlesbrough, Brown believes it is only a matter of time before Strachan's men come good. " The players he's brought in from Scotland are good players. It's early at the moment. I can imagine them getting on a run. That's what you need to do in that league and you can go from nowhere to being promoted. I'm astonished they're not flying high, but ... I'll be very surprised if they don't finish at least in a play-off place."

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence