Steven Gerrard tells Alfredo Morelos he is paid well to focus on day job

By his own admission, Steven Gerrard has singled out Alfredo Morelos for special attention this week.

Steven Gerrard says the abuse aimed at Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos is proof Scottish football has a problem with racism. Picture: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire
Steven Gerrard says the abuse aimed at Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos is proof Scottish football has a problem with racism. Picture: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Amid all of the alarming and occasionally lurid front page headlines generated by the Colombian striker over the past week, the Rangers manager remains firmly focused on trying to get his top scorer back up to full speed on the pitch as the Ibrox club bid to re-energise their title challenge.

While Gerrard has had his say on the alleged racist abuse directed towards Morelos during his time in Scottish football, he is unwilling to contribute to the claims and counter-claims surrounding the incident with the player’s car which has seen a 29-year-old man charged with breach of the peace by Police Scotland.

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Gerrard’s priority has been to assess Morelos’ readiness to perform for Rangers against Hibs at Ibrox on Wednesday night. The former Liverpool and England captain is content with what he has witnessed on the training pitch and has warned that problems off the pitch offer Morelos no excuses, regardless of his relative youth.

“Other normal 23-year-olds on the street have a lot to deal with as well in life,” said Gerrard. “Alfredo is paid extremely well to remain focused and to continue to perform well for Rangers and that is what I expect and demand from him – that he focuses on his football and does everything he can to help his team-mates.

“The suspension he served recently hasn’t been helpful to his friends in the team, to his club or to the supporters so he needs to remain focused and continue to do what he is paid extremely well to do.

“I am not available to comment on private stuff that happens between Alfredo and his wife and off the field stuff. I have spoken to him in terms of where he is at and where he is focused and he has assured me that he is fine and ready to play.

“I had that conversation with him before the Aberdeen game on Saturday and I have since had that conversation with him again as well. I am not going to be a manager that gets involved in players’ private matters and what they do away from the training ground, unless they want my support or my advice.

“What I would say is that Alfredo is the type of person who can switch pretty quickly into football mode. Yesterday in training, I watched him extremely closely. I’d say I watched him for 90 per cent of the session and he seemed fine.

“I am aware of the noise in and around some of his private stuff. It is very important that I watch him closely to see where he is at, but he didn’t give me any impression that it is affecting his football. He trained exceptionally well.

“I thought at the weekend he did everything he could against Aberdeen. He obviously had the two really big moments in the game and they didn’t come off for him, but that could be on the back of missing the previous couple of weeks with injury and suspension.

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“It is a difficult one to judge on the weekend showing, which is why I watched him pretty closely in training. He seemed fine and was smiling away. I had a chat with him during the session and he tells me he is focused, so I have to give him that level of trust.”

The 0-0 stalemate with Aberdeen proved predictably damaging for Rangers with champions Celtic duly opening up a seven-point lead at the top of the Premiership when they won 4-1 at Hamilton.

While Gerrard’s side still have a game in hand, he knows they can ill afford any further slip-ups if they are to sustain a credible title bid.

“We don’t focus on what Celtic do, we focus on ourselves,” said Gerrard. “Admittedly, they are in a relentless vein of form again.

“But there is still a lot of football to be played and we believe there will be twists and turns at the top end of the league.

“But if that’s the case and we are not in the form or the place we want to be, it doesn’t matter if there are twists and turns.

“We need to be feeling good about ourselves and back in top form, so if there are any twists and turns we are ready to pounce.

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“We need to get out of this run of form first. We need to start winning again. If we are to start putting that right against Hibs, it’s only a very small step. We have to be careful it does not continue, otherwise it could be even more damaging than the last couple of setbacks have been.

“I’ve got every confidence in the players. At full strength, this squad is capable of going on a long, strong unbeaten run. That’s maybe what might be needed. There are still very important fixtures to come in the league, and the cup and in Europe.

“I said to the players that if they listen to the noise on the outside, people think we are done. People think the wheels have come off. There’s a crisis and it’s all over. But if you stay logical about it, stick together and work hard and keep pushing forward, we can come through this and still have an extremely strong season. That’s my belief.”