Every so often, someone will ask something so banal that a silent scream will enter my mouth.

Almost as soon as it gets there, reason takes over again and out of politeness I shake my head, allow it to escape in the form of a harrumph, and produce a high-pitched “I don’t know” that covers the stench of disdain.

This week, someone asked: “What’s your favourite panto?” Then something mysterious happened. Seemingly from nowhere, the words “Dick Whittington” came out like an apparition. Dick Whittington?...

Suddenly I was transported into a dream-like state, and the figures I could see before me were enshrouded in a haze of mist. The hero was stepping off a ship emblazoned with a Union Flag… I could just make out the words “British Airways”. He was a stocky chap, fleet-footed, and on the back of his blue shirt was a number… first a “2”, yes it was a “2”. And a “0”… what did it all mean? Letters were printed above – “More or less?”, I couldn’t quite tell.

As the mist settled, it all became clear. Here was Alfredo Morelos arriving at Rangers seeking to make a name for himself, carrying nothing but his football boots and shin guards in his bindle hoisted over his shoulder.

Dick Whittington, of course, is a rags-to-riches tale in which an ambitious kid moves to the metropole to seek his fortune. After acquiring a pet cat, Dick discovers he’s a dab hand at pest control and this leads him to wealth via trials against pantomime-villain-in-chief King Rat.

In June 2017, Pedro Caixinha signed a 20-year-old Morelos for Rangers from HJK Helsinki, and the Colombian has proved to be one of the very few success stories emanating from the Portuguese manager’s fraught time in Glasgow.

But wait. There’s another of those involuntary screams in my throat…


Alfredo Morelos? The striker who holds the club record of 29 goals in Europe? Who at 26 has scored over 100 goals for Rangers? Who was once linked with a £30m move to China? Dick Whittington is based on the real-life adventures of merchant Richard Whittington, but accounts of this history vary so greatly the myth has become larger than the tale. It is a similar case with Morelos at Rangers.

Now in his sixth season in Glasgow, the forward has cut an increasingly disinterested and disengaged figure at Ibrox. Will the return of former first-team coach Michael Beale, who under Steven Gerrard seemed to get the best out of the Colombian, spark a revival in form, attitude and fitness from the player? I’m not so sure.

Beale this week identified Morelos along with Ryan Kent as a player he believes can still be key for the club, but can he really provide the necessary lift in fortunes to challenge Celtic to the title in the second half of the season? History suggests otherwise.

In his first season, Morelos made his debut in the infamous Progres Niederkorn Europa League qualifying tie that ended with Caixinha remonstrating with angry fans in a bush in Luxembourg.

He went on to score 18 goals for Rangers in the 2017/18 season as Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic charged to another treble – not a bad return for a side lagging behind their rivals on all domestic fronts. But the close of the season offered a red flag for those interested in the South American’s development: one goal in his final 10 matches was eclipsed by six bookings in his final seven. A tale of patchy form and ill-discipline was in the making.

Morelos’s disciplinary record in the following season was nothing short of shocking: 18 yellow and five red cards punctuated 30 goals in all competitions. A first taste of the myth that his on-field antics were a price worth paying for his return in front of goal. Another season without silverware suggested otherwise. In truth, as much as his talent shone through, he let his side down badly, seeing red three times against Aberdeen, once against Celtic and one in an away Europa League clash against FC Ufa. A counter-narrative that he was struggling to handle hostile environments was bandied about.

In 2019/20, the goals kept coming for Morelos: 29 of them in all competitions for Rangers. But once again, so did the red cards. One against Celtic, one against Motherwell, and a retrospective three-match ban for a stamp on Ryan Porteous of Hibs saw Gerrard’s danger man posted missing when his manager needed him most, and Neil Lennon’s Celtic went on to clinch the title in a Covid-curtailed season.

The pandemic would dominate the historic season that would follow for Rangers. Yes, Gerrard’s side went on to secure title No.55 to end a barren decade of Celtic dominance on the domestic front. Yes, Morelos would play his part with 17 goals in 44 appearances. Yes, he scored his first goals against Celtic. And no, not one red card. Were Rangers finally in possession of the finished article? And should they have cashed in on their prized asset at this stage? Again, the following season proved a furtive one for Morelos: 18 goals including six in the magnificent Europa League run, and, crucially, again no red cards.

So has he continued to progress this season under Giovanni van Bronckhorst? Well, again, no. With three goals in 19 matches in all competitions, none in the Champions League, and another sending-off against Hibs, Morelos appears out of sorts. Appearing short of match fitness, even shorter of confidence (he hasn’t scored against Celtic since those two in the supporter-less season, and has racked up as many red cards as goals against the Parkhead side), it seems Morelos struggles to perform when the pressure is on.

The Colombian retains hero status from a majority of Rangers supporters, many of whom appreciate his fiery approach and undoubted goal threat. His anti-hero persona perhaps suited the club during its rise from the ashes of 2012. Pantomime villain? For sure, he rarely refuses the bait from opposition players all-too aware of his propensity for acting out. Opposition supporters love to hate him, too. But, crucially, managers see something apparently redemptive in his character. Gerrard, Van Bronckhorst, and now Beale have all felt they can be the one to bring out the best in the Colombian. Do I think Beale will manage to this term? All together now…

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