Alfredo Morelos should be one of the principal actors in the story of success Steven Gerrard is so desperately trying to author for Rangers.
Too often, however, the talented but flawed Colombian striker is instead a one-man soap opera capable of driving his manager to distraction.
Morelos’ latest bout of indiscipline, returning late from a Gerrard-sanctioned trip to his homeland last week to visit his ill mother, saw him dropped for the Scottish Cup quarter-final against Hearts at Tynecastle on Saturday as a toothless Rangers side slumped to defeat.
He has since accepted formal disciplinary action from the club, understood to be a fine, and has expressed contrition in a one-on-one meeting with Gerrard.
The 23-year-old, who issued a statement on Twitter on Tuesday night apologise for his conduct, is back in the squad for Wednesday night’s Premiership match against Hamilton Accies at Ibrox but Gerrard has warned him the time has come for the player to accept his wider responsibilities.
“This can’t be Morelos FC,” said Gerrard. “This needs to be Rangers FC and every single player that represents the club needs to behave in the right way on and off the pitch.
“They are paid extremely well to be professional and respectful to the club, the job and the supporters.
“The supporters follow them near and far every single week through all conditions. They do not pick and choose their games.
“So everybody has to realise that and represent them in the right way. If they don’t, there will come a point where we find someone else who will do that.
“It’s not important that Alfredo does the right thing for me. It has reached the point where Alfredo needs to do it for the Rangers fans - and for his own teammates who are desperate to be a success.”
Rangers fans ‘may have run out of patience’ with striker
The Rangers support have generally provided strong backing for Morelos throughout the multiple suspensions he has incurred during his time at the club but there is a sense that the patience of many with him may have snapped at the weekend.
“It’s difficult for me to answer that because I am not on the terraces,” said Gerrard. “From my point of view, after his red card at Parkhead last season it was important we did everything we could to start to show him the support and the love that he needed as a young player.
“He is going to make mistakes. Each player is different. Some need more support than others, some need more guidance.
“People have had different types of education and learning paths to be where they are in life.
“The staff and the players have always been there for Alfredo from day one and while he is here, we will continue to do that.
“But there is a stage where you need to help yourself and do the right thing for yourself and your family and supporters – and that’s where he is right now.”
An example ‘had to be set’
While the absence of his 29-goal leading scorer handicapped Gerrard in such a crucial fixture at the weekend, he insists an example had to be set.
“It wouldn’t send the right message to our kids at the Academy, it wouldn’t send the right message to the rest of the dressing room, if I make a new rule that anyone can just miss a full day’s preparation going into one of the most important games of the season and you won’t miss the game.
“It was important that we dealt with the situation. There is a big picture behind discipline and standards at the club and everyone is united from board level down that you can’t do that. You can’t miss a full day’s training just because you want to miss a full day’s training. I had to do the right thing for the dressing room, not for me. I felt we did the right thing in dealing with that. If there is some short-term pain on the back of that, or people think there is, so be it and I will have to take responsibility for that.”
Decisions to be made for Accies clash
With Jermain Defoe returning from injury as a substitute on Saturday and Florian Kamberi now available again after being cup-tied, Gerrard has other striking options as he considers whether Morelos should go straight back into his starting line-up.
“I judge it now moving forward,” he added. “I dealt with the situation prior to the game and I followed it up first thing on Monday when I came in the door with a one-on-one chat with Alfredo and told him how it was.
“He has accepted that, he has apologised in the room to myself, the supporters and the players. If he decides to do something publicly on that, that is his decision. But he did show remorse and regret and disappointment and he has accepted what has come his way.
“Now we park it up and move forward and that is what I will do. I can’t be a manager that stays stubborn, punishes someone and then continues that. That wouldn’t be fair.”
Gerrard will be without midfield pair Ryan Jack and Scott Arfield, both injured at Tynecastle, for the visit of Accies as Rangers attempt to reignite their Premiership campaign.