At the time it was difficult to understand why Steven Gerrard seemed so downbeat in the aftermath of Rangers’ Ibrox victory over Coventry City on Saturday that delivered a fourth win and fourth clean sheet from the club’s pre-season programme.
The subsequent revelation that Lille appear to have stepped up their pursuit of Alfredo Morelos – without lodging a bid to satisfy the Rangers hierarchy – gave context to Gerrard’s demand for his club’s board to provide him the funds to recruit two starters for his first 11 – note plural – with there not “being enough numbers” in the striking department.
With the potential that the club will lose Morelos before their opening Premiership fixture at Aberdeen on Saturday, and that Jermain Defoe will be out for a month with a hamstring injury, the bottom line is he might not have any real numbers for the centre-forward role.
Greg Stewart won’t be perceived as a genuine option. Little wonder Gerrard made no bones that he “needs more” additions for his team to seriously threaten Celtic as they bid for a ten-in-a-row that Rangers supporters simply refuse to countenance. And he doesn’t seem interested in how Rangers could possibly afford such an outlay at a club that was a loss-making operation before the Covid-19 pandemic battered their finances, but that’s another matter.
Gerrard is entitled to feel more relaxed about his team at the other end of the pitch, even with centre-back Nikola Katic lost for six months with a cruciate ligament injury. Filip Helander’s first senior appearance for eight months at the weekend, coupled with the arrival of Leon Balogun, and the ability of summer recruit Calvin Bassey, means that he doesn’t need to fear injuries to his likely starting centre-back pairing Connor Goldson and George Edmundson.
The duo have appeared solid. More than that, Goldson is patently a solid citizen. He is to be admired for his courage in refusing to be cowed on Twitter by the appalling social media reaction from some Rangers followers to their players taking the knee in support of Black Lives Matter. Just as managing director Stewart Robertson deserves to be applauded for his forthright statement last week that any fans slamming the club’s endorsement of the global drive for racial equality weren’t welcome at Ibrox.
This backdrop ensured that the moment before kick-off on Saturday when Goldson and his fellow black team-mates took the knee and gave power salutes sliced through the eerie silence at an empty Ibrox.
The 27-year-old Englishman, who headed in his team’s second after the impressive Joe Aribo had opened the scoring against Coventry, said the players were never going to give up on the symbolic gesture because of any haters in their own support.
“I was proud of the club coming out and making the statement they did, Stewart Robertson doing that,” he said. “We had the support from everyone. The gaffer [Steven Gerrard] pulled a few of us and said that whatever we wanted to do he would be behind us, however he could help he would. As I said on the post [on Twitter in response to the negative reaction], I know it’s only a minority, but a minority does still stand at every football club. We just need to try and be as brave as we can and keep trying to eradicate it.”
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