Rangers reaction: Pointed reminders to Morelos; Tillman taking on Aribo mantle; boycott, what boycott?
Pointed reminders to Morelos
A question put to Giovanni van Bronckhorst in post-match following his team’s pounding of their Perth oppoents effectively amounted to whether he could envisage playing on-form Antonio Colak and returning-from-injury Alfredo Morelos together as a central attacking partnership (answer: he couldn’t). The question at the back of all minds is how long Colak will block Morelos’s path to starting appearances in the sole striker role.
With PSV Eindhoven up at Ibrox on Tuesday for the clubs’ humungous Champions League play-off first leg, the canter of a victory at the weekend seemed the ideal occasion to step-up the game time given to the Colombian striker as he builds himself back following five months sidelined with a knee injury. Van Bronckhorst, though, declined to do that. Morelos has been such a pivotal matchwinning for Rangers that, even when far from fully fit in the past, he has tended to be thrown into the fray and allowed to gain his sharpness in the course of games.
It seems that van Bronckhorst isn’t prepared to circumvent the sports science route, and has an expectation even his star names require to put the work in on the training pitch to achieve the best conditioning possible. The club’s top scorer in three of the past four seasons was given only a 23 minute run-out in a game already won against Callum Davidson’s men. In his comeback match the week previously, that figure was 26 minutes, while he had a mere 11-minute cameo in the midweek history-making 3-0 success over Union Saint-Gilloise.
The Dutchman has made several references to Morelos not being fit enough to start games and his need to become stronger. He can take his time with the player, because the instinctive penalty-box finishing of Colak - who netted his third goal in as many games against St Johnstone - means there isn’t the usual Morelos-shaped hole in a Rangers side not featuring a performer regarded as a talisman.
Mallik assuming the Aribo mantle
The departure of Joe Aribo for Southampton in the summer deprived Rangers of a player so often their creative fulcrum. A gifted, technical performer capable of chipping in with crucial goals, for long spells last season he was the Ibrox club’s most effective player. Malik Tillman seems to have slipped seamlessly into that very role. The Bayern Munich loanee combines craft with quick feet and rangy balance, endowments that have made him the most eye-catching of the club’s seven summer signings. Two very different headed strikes over the past week - in very different circumstances, with the first the Union tie-clincher, while the other day his effort had the scoreboard clicking - surely only provide the early glimpses of how the captivating US international will impact games throughout the campaign.
Boycott, what boycott?
The more simple-minded among us found it irresistible to crack the predictable joke on seeing that, following calls for a boycott by a modest travelling band, there were still some fans in the sparsely-populated St Johnstone away section at Ibrox on Saturday. You can insert the punchline here. The aforementioned boycott was initiated by the club’s Fair City Unity supporters group over “unwarranted and extortionate” ticket prices so was no doubt well-intentioned. It was, though, always destined to have zero impact. The Twenty’s Plenty campaign designed to cap ticket prices for away fans at £20 is a worthy cause. And a complete waste of the time and energy of everyone involved since there isn’t a single top flight club that live by the mantra, or ever will.
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