THE imminent return of both Alfredo Morelos and James Tavernier will, as the old saying goes, be like signing two new players for Rangers.

Jermain Defoe played well up front for the Ibrox club in the three games his fellow forward has missed due to suspension and scored two goals. Nathan Patterson and Jon Flanagan , meanwhile, did alright against Stranraer and St Mirren respectively while their regular right back was recovering from minor surgery.

Yet, Steven Gerrard’s side are just not, as was apparent at Tynecastle yesterday as they slumped to a costly defeat against bottom-placed Hearts, the same without their first-choice striker Morelos and skipper Tavernier. They should be a different team with the key duo back in the starting line-up.

Rangers, though, would do well to bring in a new player or players between now and the close of the January transfer window on Friday evening to strengthen their Scottish title challenge. Up front especially.

Gerrard - who was delighted to tie up Defoe on a pre-contract agreement on Saturday – has previously admitted he is unlikely to conduct much, if any, business this month.

But the 2-1 defeat in the capital, which means his side can no longer leapfrog Celtic at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership table if they win their game in hand against St Johnstone at home, showed that a new face wouldn’t go amiss.

The visitors had few problems creating chances. It was converting them which proved an issue. Ryan Kent put the away side in front early in the second-half with his sixth goal since his £6.5 million move from Liverpool in September. But neither he nor his team mates could replicate that finish thereafter and they paid a heavy price for their lack of ruthlessness in the final third.

The options available to the man watching from the dugout, however, were non-existent. The former Liverpool and England midfielder put on Matt Polster for Flanagan, Scott Arfield for Ryan Jack and Sheyi Ojo for Glen Kamara. But he didn’t have another specialist centre forward at his disposal.

That is not a problem his opposite number at Parkhead has any more. Neil Lennon had his record £9 million signing Odsonne Edouard and new £3.5 million arrival Patryk Klimala on his bench on Saturday. He was able to replace Leigh Griffiths with Edouard in the second-half of the league game against Ross County and watched as his substitute scored the final two goals in a comfortable 3-0 win.

Gerrard identified a lack of strength in depth in his squad as a problem last season and set about rectifying that during another summer of extensive recruitment. He now has at least two quality players, in some cases more, in every position on the park. But he still looks short up top.

Defoe has proved money well spent once again this term. The fact he has netted no fewer than 16 goals in the 2019/20 campaign is remarkable given how limited his game time has been. At 37, he is every bit as sprightly as when he made his debut in the senior game some 19 years ago. Keeping him in Govan beyond May makes sense on many levels. He could, on recent evidence, play on until he’s 40.

But can he be relied on to be available if Morelos picks up an injury or another ban at his age?

Having another attacker would help his club maintain the pressure on their city rivals. Just look at the impact Liam Boyce made for Hearts yesterday. The Northern Ireland internationalist scored the winner, albeit after a deflection, on his debut for the Gorgie club he joined last week.

Celtic fans celebrated the loss Rangers suffered every bit as much as their Hearts counterparts last night. But it won’t be the last twist between now and the final Premiership fixture. There are still another two Old Firm games to play for a start.

Signing another striker, either on loan or permanently, could prove money very well spent for Steven Gerrard.


It would be presumptuous to assume that Scotland are going to beat Israel in their Euro 2020 play-off semi-final in March and progress to a final against either Norway or Serbia away.

If John McGinn, Scott McTominay and Kieran Tierney are all ruled out by injury it will reduce the national team’s chances of winning the Hampden match and going through.

But if they do prevail, and if Norway overcome Serbia in Oslo in the other Path C semi-final, they will certainly have their work cut out reaching the tournament proper.

Erling Braut Haaland underlined he is one of the most exciting young strikers in European football when he came off the bench and scored a hat-trick against Ausburg on his debut for Borussia Dortmund nine days ago.

The 6ft 4in 19-year-old, a €20 million January signing from Red Bull Salzburg, followed that up when he netted twice against Cologne, once again as a substitute, on Saturday. He became the first player in Bundesliga history to bag five goals in his first two matches in the process.

Haaland is by no means the only precocious young talent that Norway coach Lars Lagerback has at his disposal. Martin Odegaard, the Real Madrid winger, has flourished on loan at Real Sociedad this season. So much so, that the 21-year-old’s parent club are considering recalling him early this summer - at a cost of £3.4 million.