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Alfredo Morelos could help Rangers stop 10 by leaving - Keith Jackson

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So it turns out we took it for granted all this time.

Of course, it stands to reason that we’ve always loved Scottish football – despite all of its ugly warts – but it took a global pandemic to make us realise just how big the void would be without it.

But after more than four months without it, here we all are on the verge of a new top-flight campaign as well as a new normal – whatever that is supposed to mean.

The truth of the matter is nothing has been even remotely close to normality in the first half of this year.

The world was tipped into an abyss and when coronavirus eventually spluttered its way around the world, it was inevitable the game in this country would take a real-life crisis and turn it into one big s**tshow of a drama.

(Image: Craig Foy/SNS Group)

Sport may have been placed on pause but the controversy and the vitriol have raged on relentlessly even though the ball was locked away in the cupboard.

All of which just went to prove what we already knew to be true – that no other league on the face of the planet is as fun to be around as ours.

Yes, it may lack in good table manners but you wouldn’t want to go to the dinner party without it.

It may come up short against the Germans in terms of technical brilliance. It doesn’t have the style of the Spanish or the flamboyance of the French.

And, given that the a**e is often falling out of its trousers, it doesn’t dress itself up as smartly as its wealthy English cousin.

But this unpredictable bampot takes us to the kind of places the rest of them don’t even know exist and now that it’s been let out of lockdown all hell is probably about to be unleashed all over again.

The question is, what happens next?

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Is this the season that Celtic rack up a 10th successive title? Or are Rangers finally fit for the purpose of delivering a sustained league challenge?

Will we even get a full campaign out of 2020-21 or will Covid-19 return and throw us all back into the madhouse from which we’re only just about to escape?

And perhaps most concerning of all, for how long can our top 12 clubs continue to play on behind closed doors before the enormous financial strain of operating without matchday income begins to topple them over like skittles?

So far the ultra cautious Scottish Government have shown little or no appetite for allowing the padlocks to come off – even though fans are already returning to stadia all across Europe – and their delay in sanctioning ‘test events’ with limited numbers is understandably causing alarm.

Put simply, Scottish football will not survive this crisis intact unless there is a relaxation of the restrictions some time soon and certainly well before the turn of the year. But we go into this new campaign without any way of knowing if the House on the Hill has any intention of allowing that to happen.

So for now the Scottish game has no option other than to take an almighty leap of faith in the hope that it somehow lands on its own two feet on the other side of this global catastrophe.

A terrifying prospect perhaps but it’s also the reality of the situation that football in this country must face up to as it takes its first steps back.

Even for the champions, who went into lockdown with around £30million in the bank, these have been the most testing of times.

They may have more money than the rest of them put together but running a wage bill of circa £60m, they’ve also experienced by far and away the biggest cash burn throughout these last few unprecedented months.

(Image: SNS Group)

Had this humanitarian disaster not shut them down for so long, manager Neil Lennon would have been looking to add some stardust to his squad ahead of the big push towards history. But that ship has almost certainly sailed.

Instead of topping up his talent pool, Lennon will be looking to do not much more this summer than keep hold of those players who served him so well over the last couple of campaigns.

Without Leigh Griffiths banging them in at one end of the pitch and Fraser Forster keeping them out at the other, Celtic have appeared weaker
in pre-season than they were when the world stopped. Lennon knew addressing these issues was a matter of urgency, explaining the arrival of keeper Vasilis Barkas.

Across the Clyde, Steven Gerrard continues to move Rangers in the right direction – even if his team stalled horribly after returning from the winter break.

(Image: Rangers FC/PA Images)

His strongest starting XI has not changed that much but neither has his biggest problem. Scratch below the surface and the drop-off in quality between his established first picks and the options in reserve is stark.

With such a congested calendar ahead, Gerrard needs to add at least three faces and they must be players capable of adding a great deal more to his team than those who have been kicking around on the fringes over his first two seasons without contributing when it matters.

He’s got more than enough Greg Stewarts and Jordan Joneses. What he needs is another Ryan Kent or Ianis Hagi.

And then there’s the great Colombian conundrum that is Alfredo Morelos.

Again it’s the same old question – how does the manager deal with this Incredible Sulk? And the fact he’s having to ask it of himself once again should provide the obvious answer.

(Image: Rangers FC/PA Images)

Gerrard has to learn from previous mistakes and allowing the mood swings of Morelos to undermine the morale within his group once more would seem like a risk he cannot afford to take.

If there is £15m to be had for blowing out this loose cannon then Gerrard should take it and spend it on players in whom he really can place his faith.

Morelos cannot be trusted to fire Rangers to this title. But it could be that he stops Celtic by leaving.

One way or another it promises to be a season like no other. And it can’t come quickly enough.




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