ALFREDO Morelos, the Rangers striker who was handed a three match suspension by the SFA last week, has been warned he will be singled out for rough treatment by opposition defenders far more following his latest ordering off and must learn not to react in future.
The Colombian received a red card for the fourth time this season, one of which was reduced to a yellow on appeal, during a Ladbrokes Premiership game against Aberdeen last Wednesday evening that he had netted two goals in.
The 22-year-old kicked out at Scotland defender Scott McKenna after his opponent had cleared the ball and was sent off by referee Bobby Madden for his foolish act.
Willie Johnston, the legendary Ibrox winger who helped Willie Waddell’s team win the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972, was plagued by similar disciplinary problems during his own playing career. Indeed, he left Rangers for West Brom in 1975 after receiving a 10 game ban.
Johnston, who still attends Rangers’ home matches, is a huge admirer of Morelos, but fears the player is set to be targeted by rival teams increasingly and has urged the combustible centre forward to try and control his fiery nature.
“I like watching anybody who scores goals,” he said. “But Alfredo has got a problem and he is finding it hard. He will only find it harder too. He will just get picked on every week. He has got to learn, that is all there is to it.
“Players wind you up and it is very hard to take. They have kicks at you and try to do you. So you retaliate and once you do that you are off. You have to try and accept it. But it can be very hard. I sympathise with the boy because they are winding him up.”
“It has just happened, too, because he has been stupid. That is all it is. He gets wound up by other players. They take fly kicks at him and what have you.
“That hasn’t changed in 50 years, since I have watched football. All of my red cards were for retaliation, that is why I got sent off. But I actually think it is worse now. Some of the tackles that go flying in on the wee man are awful. He is giving it back. He is a strong guy.
“The second goal he scored against Aberdeen the other night was brilliant – and then he goes and gets himself sent off afterwards. He has got to learn.
“I have known a lot of good players who were aggressive and got sent off as a result of that early in their careers. But once they got sent off once or twice that was it. They learned to take it. The best players cut it out of their game.
“(Colin) Steiny got the s*** kicked out of him and he got sent off a couple of times as well. He took some punishment when he played. But he learned quickly.”
Morelos received an automatic two game suspension for violent conduct for his red card against Aberdeen – and got another match added on because he had previously been sent off in the Premiership this season.
Johnston is hopeful the former Helsinki player, who has scored 23 goals in all competitions for Rangers this season, will return in the William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round replay against Kilmarnock at Ibrox a week tomorrow with a different attitude.
“He will learn the hard way,” said Johnston. “The way he is going he will probably end up getting a 10 week suspension next time around. That is what I got and I had to leave Scotland as a result.
“He is from South America and he has got a different temperament. But he will have to mature because if he doesn’t he is going to spend long spells out of the game. It is difficult. At the moment he is out for three games, but the next time it will be eight or nine games. He will end up having to move.
“When you are sitting on the sidelines, that is when it hits you. When your team is playing and you aren’t involved, you aren’t scoring goals, it isn’t nice.”
Morelos, who only cost Rangers £1 million back in 2017, has expressed a desire to play in the top flight in England in future and it will be little surprise if he departs during the close season. But Johnston feels Premier League clubs down south could think twice about spending a sizeable sum on him
“He can score goals,” he said. “It is just his temperament that is the issue. It is maybe stopping clubs coming in for him.”