Rangers fans who have reacted with understandable confusion and some disappointment over manager Steven Gerrard’s comments on Alfredo Morelos might do well to have a second glance.
October, 2019. James Tavernier had just fouled up horribly to cost Rangers a win in Switzerland v Young Boys, and fans were slaughtering him, suggesting he had to go. We know on Ibrox Noise, because we saw it, and our angle was not to blame the player, but to ‘blame’ the manager for picking him without accountability.
To this Gerrard said the following:
“We can’t just always be praising James and talking about the good side. He is human – he will make mistakes at times. It is very few and far between when he lets us down. It is what it is and obviously the mistakes have had an influence on the outcome of the game. But part of being a leader is moving on from mistakes. It’s part of taking accountability for performances. James is someone who will put himself before the team,” the Englishman added. “He will put himself up there to be shot down, he takes responsibility. James isn’t someone who would shy away from that in the dressing room, so there are no problems. In certain situations, with certain players, you think it may have an affect moving forward. But with James, it wouldn’t surprise me if he plays well, bounces back and provides a game-changing moment for the team. There have been many times when he’s bailed us out. We are all aware the modern game is very social media driven. When we win, we all get a lot of praise on it. I’m sure James has experienced that as well. When it doesn’t go well, you expect a backlash. I get it, the players get it, people at different clubs get it. You have to accept we are in a world where it won’t go away. I’m not sure players look into it, that much. I certainly don’t. I don’t go looking for the praise when we beat Aberdeen 5-0, I just roll with whatever it is.”
Now, look closely at what he did here – he defended the seemingly indefensible. He backed Tavernier completely, and showed his faith in him.
Fast-forward to yesterday, and Morelos’ poor display at Tannadice plus reckless elbow which admittedly should have seen red.
Fans melted in outrage over his conduct and his performance, slamming him and demanding he be sold, taken out of the team.
But Stevie didn’t agree. Just like with Tavernier, he defended the indefensible. He backed his player.
Now, look where Tavernier is today, for having the complete and total faith of his manager.
Tavernier was determined to prove his boss right, and he kept plugging away, and today he’s arguably the best RB in Britain, aside Trent Alexander-Arnold. His numbers are a freak, his performances excellent, and he’s achieving levels no one could have dreamed of.
Because his manager had his back.
Gerrard believes the best way to get the best from players when they’re down, depending on individual cases, of course, is to back them – show publicly he’s got them and he’ll protect them.
Sure, Morelos is a slightly different case to Tavernier, but the overall principle is his manager will defend him, protect him, and show his faith in him that the player will come good.
It’s what Stevie has done before, and he will do again when he believes there’s more to come from a player.
As we sit waiting on today’s draw for the last 32 and proudly at the top of the table, who are we to argue with the gaffer’s approach?