It’s hard to explain the majesty of Mark Hateley in his pomp without having seen him strut his stuff in the flesh.

If you could bet on one Rangers player from the past to thrive in the modern game, you’d put your mortgage on the Englishman.

Like the elite forwards of today, he was no one-trick pony. This was a player that could do it all.

For fans of a certain vintage, memories are still fresh of his aerial prowess, of defenders being bounced away like bowling pins as he soared through their air.

With Ally McCoist circling with predatory intent, never farther than 15 yards from wherever this irresistible wrecking ball went, there were spoils aplenty.

But Hateley was also something of a contradiction. As capable of the graceful, artful and exquisite as he was of brutal, blunt force.

Deceptively quick, he could come short and go long and his skillset would surely push his value to eight, or even nine figures should he have been born in a different era.

The epoch that did define him was one where the strong and powerful number 10 was a staple of British football.

Hateley’s own lineage saw him moulded in the image of his father Tony, himself a fine striker for clubs like Aston Villa, Chelsea and Liverpool.

But Mark's career would take him on a different journey and to far greater heights.

Moves to AC Milan and Monaco would deepen his understanding of the game and his role within it, meaning that by the time Graeme Souness finally got his man after years of trying, the complete player was walking up the marble staircase.

What followed is now part of the storied history of the club.

Here, as he launches the definitive book about his career, one of Scottish football's greats explains the art of the target man.


“Paolo Rossi said to me, ‘You have always got longer than you think to finish’. As a young player alongside him, the first thing he said was, ‘Stop smashing the ball hard!’ You look at Paolo, all his goals were dinks and passes into the corner. The ball doesn’t need to hit the net to score a goal. That’s a pearl of wisdom.”

Learning in a new football culture

“I had to go abroad to learn how to be the player I became. They wanted me operating in the width of the penalty box. On afternoons when we weren’t playing, I’d go onto the training pitch with Nils Liedholm (the manager), one goalkeeper, a bag of balls and a load of cones with Fabio Capello who was then the youth coach. They would walk me through situations where the left-back or a central midfielder had the ball. It was nothing intense, it was just walking and looking at where to be. And that opened up a brand new game to me in regards to the technical side and having a good technique. That’s why it was the best league in the world to join, playing against the best players and getting taught by the best. Milan put me into a box in training. I couldn’t come out of it and I could only have two touches. Defenders could come in, but I couldn’t come out. Everything was technical and about first touch. You have to have a first touch as a striker. Nobody can tackle you from behind now so you should feel comfortable with the ball being laid into you and having the correct body shape when you’re receiving it. If you are restricted into a small space like I was, you have to work really hard, be looking all the time and be really sharp."


“Intimidation was always part of my game. I’ve always had that aggression all my life - that helps. I’d try and intimidate the whole back four. My Dad always said to me, ‘the first 15 minutes of a game is always in your head’. I never looked at a team sheet because I knew in that 15 minutes whoever I was playing against was going to get the same sort of treatment. I would pick a weakness straight away in the back four, a small full-back or a centre-half who’s poor over his left or right shoulder. You try and pick that up very quickly. You have to be a player that nobody in the back four wants to mark. That’s what I did and that’s what they taught me in Milan. I see players that batter their way through a game. They don’t think their way through and it’s just a blunt object crashing up against a blunt object.”

A Man's strength and when you get it

“I didn’t play my best stuff until I was between 32-35. I was the right weight, the right strength. You get a boy’s strength between 16 and 20. You get another strength between 20 and 28 and then you get the real man’s strength between 28 and 35. And that all came to me, purely because of the way I treated my body. I came into Rangers at 12 stone 3 pounds. I thought I had to put weight on and within seven or eight weeks I went to 13 stone 10 pounds in muscle weight. Just to cope with the rigours of Scottish football. It made me a lot stronger and quite a bit quicker. I put all that into place and in the final part of that period, I was the finished article.”

Mental strength

“Pressure is what pressure is. It’s what you make it. Some people thrive and some people crumble. I’m stubborn and I’ve always been that way since I was a boy. If I wanted it, I’d go and get it at all costs. When I attacked a ball, my mentality was that I was always going to get it. Some say it’s courage but I think it’s a willingness to win and that’s all I wanted to do.“

Shooting early

“It’s about being three frames ahead in your brain. And if you are three ahead of who’s marking you, you are the same ahead of the keeper. All the time you are computing, that’s what great players do."


"I was fortunate enough to play with a smart lad in Alistair McCoist. If you watched him when we played together, he doesn’t look at the ball, all he looks at is me to take his position. Where I was coming from, Alistair would always end up because that’s where the space was. You go into the space to gain the space to come out of the space. When he was on the bench everyone thought he was messing around with the big mug of tea and bringing the jug to the bench but he was taking everything on board. He got himself really sharp and fit. He needed to be no more than 15 yards away from me in and around the danger area. That’s why he was so successful.”

Honing aerial prowess

“I used to hang a ball on a line to practice but the trick is you never stand. You jump across the ball. I see a lot of strikers standing still and trying to jump up the way instead of going across defenders left or right. It didn’t matter for me because I have good dexterity, I’m left-handed tennis, right-handed cricket, right-handed golf, throw with my left hand. Heading from either side is the same for me. On the famous day we beat Aberdeen 2-0, Alex McLeish made one fatal error at that first goal. He showed me his number. Instead of being side on, he went flush. As soon as he did that, he had no chance of getting the ball. I was always jumping. When I was at school I would try and hit leaves on trees. Timing is everything. If you are a good jumper with bad timing you are only half way there. It’s timing and execution of the jump and body position, the shoulders. My Dad was one of the best of his era at that.”

On making runs

“You don’t get away from defenders, you take them into a position they shouldn’t be in. You take them out of position. They just don’t know it. They only have to be a metre out of position and you are in. You find a weakness and you find what shoulder to run off. I look at defenders and you can see it’s the same mistake all the time. You can see how they move when a ball goes over each shoulder, how they move their feet. They don’t move their feet properly and they lose half a second. The first yard is in the forwards head add that half a second into the mix and you are away.”

On enticing the defender to create space

“As a striker now, I’d say to hold the ball in. They can’t tackle or put a hand on you. You can do what you want once you have it under control. You have the defender where you want them. It’s all up to you. You are looking at creation and what’s in front of you. The other thing is to get in between strikers so they don’t know who is marking you. The perfect example of that is our second goal against Leeds.

"We were defending hard. John Brown wins the ball. He knocks it out to me. I know where Ian Durrant is so I’ve had a little flick between my legs into him but what I have done there, because I’m so deep, I’m expecting us to win the ball back. So I wanted lots of space behind me. I’ve gone into a deep role, deeper than Alistair so I’m not followed by a centre-half, I’m on a full-back. He’s had to come in and as soon as I flick it between the legs, he’s gone. What’s behind me? Massive space. I spin-off. Jaspar (Stuart McCall) gets the ball and plays it into that space. That’s where I’m going to exploit. If you watch that goal again, I run away from the goal because I’m trying to get the attention of one of the two central defenders both marking Alistair. I know he’s going to run into and take a position in the box, invariably at the far post. If you watch it, I have a touch but he doesn’t come. I have another touch and this is where I’d normally deliver but the centre-half still hadn’t come. That was the touch that got him to come towards me and allow Alistair to go on to his defender and go straight between. That’s when I delivered the ball. If I had delivered it three touches before it did, it would never have happened.”

The new book Mark Hateley: Hitting the Mark is available to buy now.

You can purchase a copy here.