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."

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice