By Scott Bradley
Rangers captain James Tavernier has felt the wrath from the club’s support and pundits in the media, but this season he has played a massive part in Rangers clinching their 55th league title.
The English right-back James Tavernier, 29, signed for the Ibrox club under ex-manager Mark Warburton from Wigan Athletic for a fee of £200,000 in 2015, and it’s been an eventful time since.
Tavernier, who’s played 200 league games for the Light Blues, has been seen as a scapegoat by some of the Rangers support and has always divided opinion. 17 goals and 15 assists in all competitions this season for a fullback are incredible stats.
Last season Tavernier told the Rangers programme before his teams shocked 1-0 defeat to Hamilton Academical at Ibrox. The pressure sometimes gets to the players as expected from the demanding support. He received a backlash for his comments.
He stated: “Whenever anybody puts a bit of pressure on us in Scotland or gets in our face, it seems to affect us too much. At the start of the season, teams dropped us off, but now they smell blood straight away and put us under pressure.”
His form started to dip in the 2019/2020 season after the Portuguese winger Daniel Candeias’ departure to Turkish side Genclerbirligl in the summer transfer window. The pair had great chemistry down the right flank in the 2018/2019 season as 23 goals and 22 assists combined came from the two players.
Tavernier was inconsistent in the 2019/2020 season and struggled to find the chemistry with Joe Arbio and Scott Arfield on the midfield’s right side.
He made catastrophic mistakes against Hearts away at Tynecastle in the Scottish Premiership. The game finished 1-1 and in the Europa League group stage against Swiss side BSC Young Boys, which led to Rangers losing the game 2-1 away from home.
Many, I included, questioned Rangers manager Steven Gerrard’s decision to allow Tavernier to keep the armband. It was evident that he was struggling in the role, and the responsibility that it entails seemed to be affecting his performances.
Gerrard stuck by his guns and ignored criticism from pundits such as former Celtic striker Chris Sutton who branded the former Leeds United youth player a “serial loser”.
The Rangers manager responded to Sutton’s outburst by defending his captain. He said: “I don’t think that person deserves the airtime.”
Gerrard’s stubbornness and continued support of Tavernier have paid off, and Rangers fan David Welch, 22 from Renfrew, could not be happier with his performances this season.
He said: “James Tavernier has matured this season for me. He’s a man who is leading by example. I think the manager has put complete faith back in his ability, and while he is scoring more goals and assists than ever, I think his defensive side has improved so much that it allows him to go forward more.”
The modern game has changed from yesteryear, and modern full-backs play a crucial role in getting forward and participating in the attack – Tavernier fits that role perfectly.
Tavernier signed a new deal at Rangers until 2024, which is a massive boost to continue the successful project Gerrard has built at Rangers.
James Tavernier will go down as a Rangers legend. From being in the team that gained promotion to the Premiership, seeing all the highs and lows from losing the Scottish Cup final and the embarrassing Old Firm defeats, captaining Rangers to the title has cemented his hero status with the Rangers support.
By @ScottBradleyX – @ScotScorePod