Jermain Defoe and his ultimate Rangers ‘gift’ as blessed striker sparked Alfredo Morelos rebirth

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He arrived proclaiming he had been blessed with a gift from God.

But while Jermain Defoe never quite reached full-blown Messiah-status at Ibrox, it was his arrival which helped spark the second coming of Alfredo Morelos and the rebirth of a career threatening to stall under a flurry of red cards.

And for that, the Rangers support – and Morelos himself – should be giving thanks to the man who yesterday announced he’s retiring after a glittering, goal-laden 22-year career when they kneel down to say their prayers.

Steven Gerrard had justification enough in opting to lure his former England team-mate north on loan from Bournemouth back in January 2019.

Defoe has always been a prolific goal grabber and his name still sits ninth on the Premier League’s all-time scoring list.

But another key factor was the then Ibrox boss’s hope that some of the veteran’s professionalism would provide his Colombian firebrand frontman with a shining example of how to conduct himself on and off the park.

The fact the former England striker and Premier League legend was still practicing what he preached at the age of 36, banging in goals while living his life the right way, ensured the message soon got through.

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And the numbers speak for themselves.

When Morelos was sent off in the penultimate Old Firm game of Gerrard’s first season, it was the seventh time he’d been ordered off that campaign and the Ibrox gaffer was forced to admit he was running out of excuses for the hot-head hitman.

But with Defoe’s guidance, Morelos learned to tame his temper and develop a level of self-discipline that has seen him pick up just two more reds in the three years since – all the while continuing to rattle in goals at a rate his mentor would be proud of.

It’s not quite been a case of sinner to saint but the result has been heaven-sent for Gers with Morelos again providing his quality at home and also in the Europa League.

However, it would be wrong to dismiss Defoe’s contribution in Glasgow as merely a baby-sitting exercise for Morelos.

The former West Ham, Tottenham and Sunderland poacher may have spent the majority of his time as a Rangers player watching from the bench but he invariably made a mark when he was unleashed on opposition defences.

A month before Defoe made his move to Ibrox, he told Graham Hunter’s Big Interview podcast that he reckoned he’d been blessed by the Almighty Himself with his natural-born gift of being able to beat goalkeepers.

“I can see a slight movement in the keeper, even when I’m not looking at him,” he explained.

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“I remember speaking to Dick Advocaat and he said some players, even the greats like Marco van Basten, have this thing where even when they’ve got their head down they can see the keeper.

“My mum said from day one I had a gift from God and I had to go and express myself. She still says that and that’s why I never worry about stuff.

“Even if I go through a spell where I’m not scoring or playing as well as I normally do then I always say at the end of the day I have a gift. I tell myself nobody can take that away from me.”

And Defoe’s record at Ibrox will stand the test of time too.

Among the 32 goals in 74 appearances he registered was his remarkable one-touch finish against Livingston – the 300th club strike of his long career – plus a vital strike away to Aberdeen and a goal in last year’s final derby duel against Celtic as he at long last got his hands on the title medal he’d always longed for.

It seems astonishing that a player who has given so much to the game over the years has had so little returned to him by way of prizes.

Other than his tally of 57 England caps, the only other trinket in his collection before arriving at Ibrox was an English League Cup winners’ medal he earned despite not featuring in Spurs’ 2008 final win over Chelsea.

But his boyhood ambitions were finally satisfied last year with Rangers’ title triumph.




And he admitted that for all the World Cup appearances, Champions League moments and Premier League goals he has savored down the years, it was that moment of celebration back in May that will live longest with him.

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“When you are a kid you just want to be a professional. You always want to play at the top level and play for England, ”Defoe yesterday told talkSPORT as he confirmed he was hanging up his boots from him.

“You want to win trophies and stuff like that. I’ve always said I wanted to win a league title as when you win one, even if you do it once, no one can take it away from you.

“That’s saying you have been the best team throughout the course of the season, yeah you need a bit of luck, but to show that consistency in any league is difficult.

“Last season was really special for me as, to be honest, I thought it would come quicker but I was happy it came at the back end of my career as I thought I appreciated it more.

“It was really, really special.

“There are so many other moments. So many clubs I’ve played for, so many goals and all these games have been a blessing.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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