THE award that Alfredo Morelos picked up on Friday morning was recognition of his individual efforts for Rangers in recent weeks.

But Steven Gerrard reckons the striker has become more of a team player this term as he has fired Rangers into the Europa League and to top spot in the Premiership.

That domestic achievement saw Gerrard also collect a bit of silverware as he was named the Premiership Manager of the Month alongside Morelos, who landed the Player prize for September.

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The Colombian has 14 goals this term but his contribution to the team as a whole has been more impressive and important than just his scoring ability.

“He deserves it as well,” Gerrard said. “He’s been hot in front of goal, scoring heavily. Him and Jermain (Defoe) have been in sensational form. It’s not a surprise he’s been rewarded. It’s fantastic for him.

“He was okay when he got back from international duty on Thursday so Friday was the first real day we were all back out on the pitch together preparing for Hearts.

“Alfredo has evolved under us as a staff and with this group of players. He’s listening and taking tactical information on board more.

“At times when we first came in we saw a player who played for himself. He’s been much more thoughtful about the team and his responsibilities, being more accountable. We’ve seen a maturity on and off the pitch in the last four of five months and it’s been reflected in his performances.”

There were times last term when many Gers fans, and perhaps even Gerrard, were questioning whether Morelos was worth the hassle as his disciplinary record attracted as many headlines as his scoring feats.

His sending off against Celtic in March was the final straw for some supporters but his behaviour this term has been exemplary.

Gerrard said: “It wasn’t just that red card but it was about us as a group. There was Ryan (Kent’s) incident as well and it was a case of enough’s enough. I think we lost control too many times last year. It wasn’t acceptable and it was my responsibility to address it and improve that as a group.

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“That’s what we strive to do and the players are buying in to it.

“That’s not to say we will be perfect. There will be times when yellow cards happen and I’m sure someone will make a mistake along the way. But we needed to show a vast improvement to last season over discipline.”

Morelos will continue to do his talking on the park and his importance to Rangers once again this term is undoubted.

But fans rarely hear from the man himself as he keeps his distance from regular media duties at Ibrox.

Gerrard said: “I have absolutely no problems with it at all. I have regular chats with him.

“His English is better than he cracks on. He speaks Scouse, that’s all that matters!

“Some players are quiet and reserved. I played with loads of players who just liked to get on with it. They are not comfortable with the media side of it and we have to accept it and get on with it. We never stop anyone speaking.”

Morelos wasn’t the only member of Gerrard’s squad with a reason to celebrate on Friday as Rangers stepped up their preparations for the crucial trip to Tynecastle.

Defender Nikola Katic has put pen-to-paper on an improved deal until the summer of 2023 as Gerrard’s faith in him was reaffirmed once again.

The Croatian enjoyed a largely positive first term at Ibrox and Gerrard reckons it can be easy to overlook how difficult it is to settle at a club like Rangers.

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He said: “Certainly from a foreign point of view. The likes of Joe Worrall comes in but he speaks the language, he knows the league better, he knows the personnel better and he is just two hours from home so on a day off he can shoot back and see his family.

“Niko has matured. He has become a man here. I have seen maturity off the pitch as well. He has lived by himself probably for the first time and he has to feed himself and look after himself. On the pitch I don’t think you could ever doubt him. He does everything he has to in terms of preparation to make sure he trains well and that comes out in the games. It is only normal he will have a dip in form because of his age and inexperience but people forget that he is only 21, 22. The future is bright for him.”

Rangers went into the top flight break on a high after successive 5-0 wins over Aberdeen and Hamilton saw them claim top spot in the Premiership standings.

All of Gerrard’s international stars, and Ryan Kent, will be available for the Hearts clash but Ryan Jack will miss out.

“The challenge for the Light Blues is to pick up where they left off as the next phase of the campaign begins with a tricky test.

Gerrard said: “We look at the season block by block and this is the next block we’ll present to the players. We had the debrief on the last one. We did well but there are little things we need to improve on.

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“We’ll saw to the players what is in front of them and we need to be in as positive a position as we are now by the middle of November.

“There are a lot of tough away games, a huge semi-final, and two big Europa League games. We need to embrace it and enjoy it.

“This is where we want to be. These guys are so lucky to have big fixtures to look forward to and this is where we want to be. I wish I was a player preparing for this block of fixtures, that’s for sure.”