From the outside it looks like Rangers can smell blood and have decided to throw everything at the second half of this season in the hope they can chase down Celtic and silence talk of them going on to win ten in a row.
The arrival of Jermain Defoe and Steven Davis will bolster a side that has already surpassed even the club’s own expectations, according to former striker Mark Hateley.
But he claims the winter shopping spree is not only about the short-term and believes that by adding a strong backbone to the team and enlisting someone who can perhaps help hone the talents and tone down the temper of Alfredo Morelos they are also looking to the future.
“Young players change to become – hopefully – great players,” said Hateley. “When you get to 28, 29 that’s when you use the info that you have collected on the journey and become a complete player. These little bits are where you learn things the most and you expand on it.
“I see Jermain as an experienced player who can play in a one, a two or a three, wherever and I see a young player in Morelos (pictured) who can learn a lot from Defoe.
“You look at his goals and his range of goals which are vast while young strikers are looking to burst the back of the net every time they get in front of goal. When I joined AC Milan I was fortunate enough to play with Paolo Rossi for a season. One of the first things he said to me that you don’t actually have to hit the back of the net to score, all you have to do is get the ball over the line. You look at great goalscorers and that’s what they do.
“Jermain has the ability to do that and he has the ability to score wonder goals. He has the whole manual of goal scoring, a bit like (Ally) McCoist. Nobody comes higher on the scale for scoring goals at Rangers and Jermain can do something similar providing we create chances and we have been doing that.”
Morelos is arguably the best striker in the Scottish top tier but his petulance and off-the-ball behaviour have earned him a less flattering reputation and made him the focus of unwanted chatter. That was certainly the case in the wake of the recent Old Firm game. But while Hateley accepts that mistakes have been made, he stops shy of stating the 22-year-old Colombian has, too often, crossed a line.
“He needs to tailor his game but he’s a young player and we all make mistakes. Mistakes will be made by everyone involved in a fast-moving sport and Morelos is young. I had 12 red cards in my time and people make mistakes. I was sent off a few times where it was my own fault – that’s what happens. Mistakes happen and I’ve always looked at it that way. People say you get it back over the course of a season and invariably it does work that way. It happens every week and it’s highlighted more because it’s an Old Firm game.”
What the latest Old Firm match highlighted is that the gulf between the Glasgow rivals, which was once several divisions wide, is closing. And much quicker than many anticipated.
“It’s a reality check as Rangers are so far ahead of where we should be. We should be looking at two windows on from this one. That’s how efficient the machine is at the moment. We are six months into this and you would never have believed we would be at this stage six months ago. That’s what Steven [Gerrard, the Ibrox manager] and his team have brought to the club.
“There’s a completely different look to the way things are being done. The professional approach of all the players, right the way down the ranks from the first team, under-19s right down to the 17s. From the first team right down to the academy. It’s an incredible change from where we were six months ago.
“I think they realise where we’re at – ahead of the game and ahead of where we should be and they want to capitalise on that.
“There have been some breathtaking performances in Europe and then some where the team has been average and that’s the inconsistencies that they are trying to knock out of this group of players.”
Hateley believes the new arrivals will help address that.
“There is a goalkeeper, a central midfielder and a striker who help give you that spine of experience. That’s where the strength of a team comes.”
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