Steven Gerrard backs Rangers skipper James Tavernier to earn the 'trophy reward' he's been craving
Tavernier scored against Dundee United on his 250th appearance for the clubby David McCarthy, https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/authors/david-mccarthy/
Jubilant James Tavernier celebrated two milestones at the weekend but knows the champagne can’t be popped until he lifts a trophy as the captain of Rangers.
And his gaffer reckons the man who scored his 49th goal for the club in his 250th appearance on Saturday in the 4-0 demolition of Dundee United won’t be truly appreciated by those outwith Ibrox until he finally hoists silverware into the sky.
The majority of Tavernier’s goals may have come from the penalty spot over the five years since Mark Warburton spent £250,000 on bringing him from Wigan yet that tally is still phenomenal for a right-back.
But on Saturday the Englishman was even happier with the seventh successive clean sheet recorded by the Rangers defence, setting a new Scottish shutout record for any club at the start of a league campaign.
In fact, in 12 matches this season, including friendlies against the likes of Lyon and Nice, Rangers have conceded only one goal – against Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League and that match was officially last term.
Tavernier reckons Rangers are in a good place ahead of the start of this season’s European adventure and is determined that his side takes their domestic dominance into continental competition when they face Lincoln Red Imps in Gibraltar on Thursday.
But the 28-year-old allowed himself a moment of quiet satisfaction before preparations got underway for that trip to the Rock.
He said: “I’m absolutely delighted. First and foremost, to break that record of the clean sheets is a proud moment for the club and the players. To come into the league and not concede yet is a big achievement and that was the first objective as a defensive unit and as a team when we went out.
“We wanted to keep a clean sheet and I know there were a couple of moments but we’re just delighted to push it over the line and get that record.
“I thought we were great. Dundee United came after us and made it a little bit tricky at the start of the game when they pressed us but we grew into the game, built through the press and created a lot of chances.”
Reflecting on his personal achievement, he admitted there had been plenty of ups and downs in the 250 games but knows Rangers are bang in form with a strong squad and fierce competition for places.
Speaking to Rangers TV, he added: “It’s unbelievable. Who would have thought I’d have played 250 games? They’ve come thick and fast.
“It’s been a rollercoaster throughout but this season we’ve started off really well and I just want to continue that and continue playing through the games and helping this team to be where we want to be.”
Tavernier may lead by quiet example but his manager Steven Gerrard has no doubt about his right-back’s leadership qualities. And neither, the Ibrox boss insists, do his team-mates.
Gerrard said: “I thought it was Tav’s strongest performance of the season. The full-backs are a massive part of how we play. We want them to be really aggressive; really on the front foot. We want them to play like wing-backs but you can’t play with attacking midfielders if that’s the case.
“You need the balance behind the ball if it turns over, you need to have a good shape about you.
“It was his 250th game and his goals and assists speak for themselves. We know what he gives us on a daily basis.
“He is always available. He’s only missed three or four training sessions since he came to the club.
“I just hope now that he can get his reward come the end of the season and be in there when the prizes get given out because that’s what he’ll be remembered for.
“I’m pleased for the defenders. They’re getting a reward for all the hard work. We did a lot of organisation work in pre-season and it was nice to have the time to work on our shape out of possession.
“The staff have done ever so well with them but the players have gone out there and we’ve got a mentality and attitude about us that we want to keep the ball out the net.”
Manager and captain were satisfied with the display on Saturday – and in particular the manner in which they recovered from a series of injury blows, with Ryan Jack, Brandon Barker and Alfredo Morelos having to go off injured, while Leon Balogun pulled up in the pre-match warm-up.
Tavernier said: “I’m delighted with the subs who came on – Alfredo, Scotty (Arfield), Glen (Kamara) and Calvin (Bassey) made a big impact on the game and that’s what is required when the gaffer gives someone a chance. They come in and they show it. I thought the boys were terrific.
“We’ve got a strong squad and that comes from the top. The gaffer, the board and the recruitment team have done incredible jobs strengthening this team.
“At the start of the game we lost Leon and Fil’s in to replace him and we’ve got George (Edmundson) coming in on the bench. The strength of the squad is key to where we want to be this season and you see that the boys who come in know what roles to play and what’s required of them.”
Now it’s on to Gibraltar and while injuries will enforce a number of changes, Tavernier will be ready for game 251 of his Rangers career.
He’s taking nothing for granted. No Rangers player who lost to Progres Niederkorn three years ago will ever take a match in Europe for granted.
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Tavernier said: “We can’t underestimate the opponent. We’ve got to give them respect when we play against them.
“We know it’s on astroturf and we know the weather is probably going to be hot, so we’ll go over there with our gameplan and the right mindset, to come away and to get through to the next round.”