HAVING treated his wife to a shopping trip in London during some well-earned down time in the international break, nobody could accuse Steven Gerrard of Scrooge-like behaviour.

Yet, the Rangers players are unlikely to find Yuletide goodwill flowing out of Gerrard in the coming weeks; wrapping up the Betfred Cup, toasting Ladbrokes Premiership wins and gifting fans qualification for the Europa League knockout rounds are far more important to their manager than celebrating the festive season.

To that end, he has put the annual players’ night out at Ibrox – which was once, during the Nine-In-A-Row era especially, a notoriously boisterous bash – into cold storage until January so they can concentrate fully on successfully negotiating what is a crucial and fixture-congested stage of the season without any distractions.

Rangers have two games coming up this week – the Premiership match against Hamilton at the Fountain of Youth Stadium tomorrow and the Europa League game with Feyenoord in Rotterdam on Thursday night.

After that they have no fewer than eight matches – including the Betfred Cup final against Celtic at Hampden, what promises to be an important Group G match with Young Boys at Ibrox and a Glasgow derby showdown at Parkhead – in the space of 29 days next month.

The former Liverpool and England midfielder actively encourages his charges to enjoy themselves during training and socialise with each other – something which has helped foster a good team spirit in the dressing room - but results remain his priority.

“We will find the right time for the player to relax and enjoy themselves,” he said. “I’m a manager who is very fair in terms of giving them time off and family time. In terms of celebration, as a footballer you have to make sacrifices.

“I’m certainly a person who likes to work hard and play hard, no problem at all. I like a glass of wine at the right time myself, but I’ll sacrifice it at the right time and we have a winter break coming up.

“The non-internationals have just had a week off recently, I’ll give the internationalists an extra bit of family time too. We’ve been very fair across the board so the players will have to sacrifice and really be focused and professional throughout this run of fixtures. Hopefully in the long term we will reap the rewards of that. But at the right time the players will get a chance to let their hair down.”

So there is little chance of the epic Ally McCoist/Mark Hateley-arranged benders of old, when the dominant Rangers side of the 1990s hit the town decked out in fancy dress, being repeated in the coming weeks.

“They both won’t mind me saying the game has changed,” he said. “I say that to myself by the way, I’m not trying to paint myself as an angel. The game has changed and moved on. It’s now two glasses of wine rather than the 20 we were once used to.”

Gerrard emphasised he is aware of the importance of having a closely-knit group at Rangers, but for him training and playing will always take precedence over partying.

“You try and create a culture from day one,” he said. “You obviously have your standards in terms of the football and how you want the football to look on the pitch, but off the pitch as well.

“I want this place to be an enjoyable place to work. I want people skip in, want to work hard, want to spend time here, want to maximise their potential. But outside of the work I want it to be fun, I want the banter to be flying, I want them to mix. Coffee clubs, meals, I am all for that, not a problem. But when we work we push and we push them extremely hard.”

Gerrard has a fully fit squad of players to choose from for the first time since he took over at Rangers last summer entering a hectic spell and is grateful none of his men returned from representing their countries nursing injuries. He is likely to need every one of them at some stage.

“I can’t remember the last time we had everyone available,” he said. “I don’t believe we’ve ever had one. Even in pre-season players can drop out with blisters because you are trying to push them. It’s nice to have a clean bill of health because we are heading into a crucial block of games. I know, however, given the level of physicality and the tempo we try and play at then injuries will occur.

“But it’s a fantastic time to be here because of the matches that are coming up. The players have earned the right because of their performances in reaching the League Cup Final and indeed in the Europa League. We are still in with a chance of qualifying from the group and that’s the reason every game is so important. We all signed up for this and that’s why we are here.”

Alfredo Morelos, Gerrard’s leading scorer with 22 goals in all competitions, only gets back into Scotland from Colombia today and is therefore unlikely to start for Rangers against Hamilton tomorrow. His manager, though, expects the striker will be disappointed not to be involved.

“He will be desperate to play, there is no doubt about that,” he said. “If he went straight to Hamilton from the airport he’d be desperate to play, that’s the kind of of character he is. It wouldn’t surprise me if Alfredo is kicking a ball around the aeroplane right now.

“My job is to decide whether he should play, it’s about finding that balance. I’ll pick a team that I think is capable of going to Hamilton and winning. You are always trying to stay ahead of the game because we have so many important matches coming up. I am looking at the bigger picture while all the players need to do is focus on Hamilton.”