Steven Gerrard has leapt to the defence of Ryan Jack – insisting the Rangers midfielder’s Hampden tears are not a sign of weakness.
Jack broke down after the final whistle as Gers lost out to bitter rivals Celtic in Sunday’s Betfred Cup final.
Gerrard was there to console the Scotland international on the pitch but images of their embrace at the national stadium have sparked a debate over whether it shows Neil Lennon’s men have the psychological edge on their Old Firm foes.
But those claims did not wash with Gerrard, who insists the only thing that can be taken from Jack’s show of emotion is the depth of feeling he has for his club.
“People respond in different ways in that situation,” said the Light Blues boss ahead of Thursday’s Europa League showdown with Young Boys. “A lot of players over the years, certainly when I played, got a lot of criticism for not showing emotion and that they cared about the job and the club.
“So I’m going to make no apology for my players’ reaction. It was a big game. It was some of my players’ first experience on that stage.
“We make no apology for our reaction and showing that we care for this club and that we’re disappointed that we didn’t get them the success on the day.
“In terms of psychological edges, I’m not really interested. All I’m interested in is making sure they recover and go again, which I’m sure they will tomorrow night.”
Gerrard will be hoping top scorer Alfredo Morelos suffers no lasting damage following his weekend traumas at the hands of Fraser Forster.
The Colombian was hoping to break a 10-game drought against Gers’ Parkhead rivals but was left holding his head in his hands as a string of glorious opportunities – including a second-half penalty – were all spurned, with man-of-the-match Forster refusing to be beaten.
Morelos has banged in 25 goals in all competitions this term, including 13 in the Europa League alone.
But he will have no time to feel sorry for himself as Rangers seek the point against Young Boys that will extend their European campaign beyond Christmas for the first time since 2011.
Gerrard said: “Alfredo has been his normal self. Very bubbly, very lively.
“He’s trained well the last couple of days. He looks focused and ready for tomorrow’s challenge.
“I think the (focus on Morelos’ record against Celtic) is pretty normal. You expect that at big clubs if you haven’t scored against your rivals. There will be noise and people talking from the outside.
“What’s important for me is what happens on the inside and that he continues to work to be the best he can be. Sunday aside he’s been phenomenal for this team with his goals, especially in this competition.”
Gerrard knows his side’s critics will be waiting for them to slip up again after they also blew a two-goal lead in last week’s draw with Aberdeen.
But he only wants his players focusing on the prize on offer against their Swiss opponents at Ibrox, where a victory will see the Light Blues win a four-team group in a Uefa competition for the first time ever.
“At a club like Rangers I think you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth,” he said. “The good thing about this game is you get to change the whole mood and feeling around the club.
“The players are aware of that. I think they’ve reacted really well to the disappointment of the weekend and we’re ready to go.
“I’m told that a Rangers team has never topped a four-team group and if you think about where the club was when we walked in the door to where it will be if we top the group and stay in Europe past Christmas, that’s a big achievement.”
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