Former Rangers captain Barry Ferguson has praised the club’s manager Steven Gerrard for the manner in which he has handled star striker Alfredo Morelos amid a recent controversial incident.
The Daily Record reported quotes from Gerrard earlier this week in which he launched an impassioned defence of the Colombian in the wake of criticism from some quarters, saying: “Is Alfredo perfect right now? No. Will he makes a few mistakes going forward? I predict he probably will, but a lot of the fallout and the opinion, people do want to kill him.”
Morelos made a throat-slitting gesture as he left the pitch following his red card in the recent Glasgow derby win over Celtic, an incident which drew some angry reactions. Chris Sutton, who previously played with the Parkhead club, called the gesture “violent” on Twitter and insisted that the Rangers man should be banned as a result, while Celtic felt compelled to release a statement giving their view on the incident.
In his Daily Record column on Friday, Ferguson lauded Gerrard for defending his player so resolutely in public. He wrote: “No wonder Steven Gerrard has a group of players who are prepared to run through walls for their manager. You just need to look at the way he defends the people inside his own dressing room to understand why these guys are so determined to give him so much back.
“When Gerrard spoke out in Dubai the other day about the recent treatment of Alfredo Morelos I know there will have been some pundits, and supporters of other clubs for that matter, rolling their eyes and queuing up to have another go.
“‘You’re trying to kill Fredo’s career’ screamed the headline on the back page of my Daily Record and I could almost hear the same old sarcastic voices criticising him or accusing him of overreacting. But let me assure you, there won’t have been a bad word uttered inside the Rangers dressing room because what Gerrard was really doing was protecting his team and his most important player.”
Ferguson said of Morelos in conclusion: “Put it this way, Rangers can’t win this league without him and Gerrard is smart enough to realise it.” [via Daily Record]
That observation is an understandable one from Ferguson given Morelos’ contribution to the team this season. He is by far and away their top scorer with 28 goals in all competitions, twice as many as their next most prolific player Jermain Defoe with 14 (as per TransferMarkt).
Rangers are currently just two points behind leaders Celtic with a game in hand, meaning that the destiny of the Premiership title is in their hands. Were it not for the Colombian scoring the winner in a tight Boxing Day victory over Kilmarnock and also ensuring them of a point in the draw at Hearts in October (as per TransferMarkt), Gerrard’s team would need favours from elsewhere just to restore parity with the Hoops.
Ferguson is also right to commend Gerrard for getting a tune out of Morelos amid several moments of indiscipline from the striker. When the 23-year-old collected his fifth red card of last season for elbowing Scott Brown in a derby defeat in March, the Rangers boss raged at him publicly, saying “I can’t defend him anymore” (via BBC).
The 39-year-old has now very much changed his stance on Morelos in the wake of two red cards in a fortnight in December, staunchly defending the Colombian while the likes of Sutton stuck the boot in over his gesture in the derby a couple of weeks ago. As Ferguson has said, Gerrard knows that the goals of Morelos could well be vital as Rangers chase a first Premiership title since 2011, and by sticking up for the striker so forcefully in public, his players could well perceive that as an outstanding piece of management from a boss who has their backs.
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