Alfredo Morelos return is 'not a big call' says Gary McAllister as Rangers bid to maintain title push in Perth
Rangers assistant manager Gary McAllister has welcomed the availability of Alfredo Morelos after suspension but insists deciding what part the Colombian striker plays against St Johnstone on Wednesday is not a major issue.
Morelos sat out the 3-2 Betfred Cup exit at St Mirren last midweek and Saturday’s 3-1 Premiership win at home to Motherwell after Rangers accepted a two-match Scottish FA ban imposed on the 24-year-old for violent conduct in a clash with Dundee United defender Mark Connolly.
With summer signings Kemar Roofe and Cedric Itten now both hitting their stride for Rangers to join Jermain Defoe in providing alternatives up front for Morelos, the club’s top scorer for the previous three seasons is no longer guaranteed a first team starting slot.
“I wouldn’t say it is a big call,” said McAllister. “But we are just pleased that we have four quality strikers. If you look across all the major clubs and the teams that are trying to finish in top spot, they have all got three or four quality strikers and that is what we have.
"Competition is fierce and there are a lot of games, so it is nearly impossible for a striker to play in every game. It is nice and reassuring that we have got real competition now, which is a big plus going into this run of games over Christmas and New Year.”
Morelos has not scored a domestic goal since September but Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has stressed his satisfaction at the manner in which the player has contributed to the overall performance levels of a team now 16 points clear at the top of the Premiership. It’s an assessment with which McAllister concurs.
“When Alfredo was scoring lots of goals, people would say his general play was a wee bit untidy,” he added. “Now, you’ve seen that he has worked really hard to link and come and be part of the build-up.
“Listen, it’s about scoring goals for strikers, make no mistake. But his general play has definitely rewarded other players round about him. He is pulling defenders away from the goal which has enabled other players to dive into those spaces vacated by Alfredo making clever movements. We welcome him back.”
The visit to McDiarmid Park will see Rangers reach the halfway point of their Premiership campaign and is the start of an intense spell of fixtures over the festive period. Hibs visit Ibrox on Boxing Day before Rangers head to St Mirren on December 30 and then play host to Celtic in the second Old Firm showdown of the season on January 2.
“I’ve been involved in football for a very long time and I always feel the Christmas and New Year period is very pivotal,” said former Leeds, Liverpool and Scotland captain McAllister.
“If you can get through these games and be positive at the end of it, it stands you in good stead looking forward to April and May. The games at Christmas and New Year are always pretty key and we are approaching this tranche of games with that mindset.
“Obviously we treat them as they come but they come very close together, so our preparation has got to be spot on. We keep our fingers crossed we can stay clear of any little injuries. It goes without saying that the depth of our squad now makes us better equipped to deal with these games.
“If you look at the weekend against Motherwell, we were able to bring Joe Aribo, Ianis Hagi and Bongani Zungu on – quality players arriving at key moments. Zungu can give you the insurance to protect a result, while Hagi and Aribo can express themselves to get a positive result.”
Rangers’ successful run of results so far this season has been largely put together with a possession-based style of football. But as playing surfaces around the country start to show the effects of the winter months, McAllister admits their approach may need to be adapted.
“It was clear at the weekend, even watching games on TV, that some of the pitches are starting to deteriorate a little bit,” he said.
“So we maybe have to tailor our game every so slightly. We try to win games through our ability to keep good possession.
“But if the pitches don’t warrant that, you’ve got to be clever enough to tailor your game to suit the demands of what is required on a particular day at a particular ground.”
Rangers’ resources will be further bolstered by the imminent return to action of Ryan Jack. The Scotland midfielder is back in training after being sidelined since November 22 by a knee problem.
“Ryan has had a couple of days on the grass and we are really positive that he could be in and around the squad for Boxing Day,” said McAllister. “That is a big plus going into this heavy schedule of games. He won’t be in the squad for St Johnstone but we are hopeful he will be in and around it for the Hibs game.
“When you look at Ryan, he is a very key player here, without a shadow of a doubt. I think Stevie Clarke with the national team would say the same. He is a player who is very influential there as well and someone who, I feel, has really blossomed in the last couple of seasons and his game has taken jumps up the levels. When Jacko gets back, it is a big, big plus for us.”
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