The Colombian striker is halfway through a four-game ban following his dismissal against Celtic, a suspension which has paved the way for back-to-back starts for Defoe. And despite the veteran status of the 36-year-old, McCoist would have no qualms about the former England international starting the season as Rangers’ main striker.
Defoe, pictured, has another season in Glasgow after signing an 18-month loan deal in January and while McCoist stressed he would still expect the club to bring in another striker if Morelos does leave Ibrox this summer, he believes the forward has the attributes and maturity required to take over the mantle as the first-choice forward under Steven Gerrard.
“Of course he can play that role,” enthused McCoist. “He is a great player and an England international. There is a lot more to his game than just finishing, although he clearly can finish. Steven would still need to strengthen. There is no doubt he could go in and do that because he is a good player. He can finish, no doubt about it. Put the ball in front of him and he will finish but his display on Sunday was another string to the team’s bow with the way they played.
“Scott Arfield will make runs all day because he has a great engine and he can finish as well. Some of his finishing at the weekend was excellent.” Morelos has missed the wins over Hearts and Motherwell after receiving his fifth red card of the season. The striker has netted 29 goals this season but it is not just his reputation which has been tarnished with his on-field ill-discipline.
“It definitely depreciates his value, his disciplinary record,” said McCoist. “It has to have. I don’t care who you are. Whether you’re Turkey or China or England, you’re looking at your season and you’ve got 38 games, say. Then you say he’s been sent off five times. Unless my maths are wrong that’s probably about ten games he can’t play for you.”
Morelos’ latest indiscretion came after he took the bait from Celtic captain Scott Brown. The midfielder has been criticised for his part in what became an ill-tempered afternoon but McCoist was of the opinion that Morelos has to take responsibility for his own behaviour.
“I was probably more Broony than Morelos,” he laughed. “It’s part of the game. It’s just wind up. The boys I played with had an edge to them but they were cute and clever as well, like wee Broony was.”
Gerrard’s patience seemed to have snapped in the aftermath of the red card at Celtic Park and while there might be a temptation on the part of the Rangers manager to leave the striker kicking his heels even when he is available, McCoist expects the overall good of the team has to take precedence.
“That [leaving him out]would definitely be the biggest shock to his system, but there’s no point in doing it to the detriment of the team,” he said.
“You might do it for the benefit of the player, but if it’s not going to benefit the team longer-term then you can’t really do it, because the team is the be all and end all.”