Rangers captain James Tavernier scored his 100th career goal from the penalty spot against Celtic in the second Old Firm Derby of the season, which ended 2-2 on January 2. The English right back has been on a long journey since signing for the Ibrox club while in the Scottish Championship in 2015, having featured for nine different clubs in the prior six years to his arrival. Tavernier helped the light blues gain promotion back to the Scottish Premiership and remains the only player from the Championship squad still playing for the club. In 2018, former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard became Rangers manager and appointed Tavernier as club captain on a full-time basis.
Throughout Tavernier’s journey playing for Rangers, there have been many highs and lows. He has received criticism throughout the years from supporters and pundits due to some of the big mistakes he’s made on the pitch, and there were questions regarding his mentality if he could handle the pressure and expectations that entails being Rangers captain. Many, I included, questioned 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 entailed seemed to be affecting his performances.
Gerrard’s stubbornness paid off, and Tavernier has gone on to be a fantastic captain that leads by example on and off the field. The former Wigan Athletic player proved many of his doubters wrong by leading the Ibrox club to their 55th league title, and in which that season scored a staggering 19 goals and gained 16 assists. He also went on to win the PFA Scotland’s players’ player of the year.
Two criticisms Tavernier has always faced throughout his career at Ibrox have been his ability to defend and how most of his goals come from penalties. Firstly, in today’s modern game, it’s essential for full-backs to get forward, contribute to the attack, provide crosses, and get into dangerous areas – Tavernier does that exceptionally well.
The days of the full-back that only sits back are long gone as the game has evolved drastically. His defending has improved over the years, and of course, he’s prone to the odd mistake here and there but isn’t every top player? The 31-year-old has 204 goal contributions, 92 goals, and 112 assists in 379 games for Rangers – those stats show how valuable Tavernier is to the team.
Secondly, there is nothing wrong with the fact 47 of Tavernier’s goals have come from penalties. It takes tremendous skill to score that amount of penalties, especially being under massive pressure every time in taking one. Former Rangers manager Mark Warburton, who signed Tavernier for the club, praised the fullback’s character for bouncing back from the mistake he made in the 2-2 Old Firm game at Ibrox.
“I saw Tav’s mistake for the first goal, but then I saw his penalty, which sums him up. He responded so well to his setback, and demonstrated the character you require to play for a great club like Rangers. The pressure on him to score with the penalty was enormous — but he showed his bottle with a fantastic strike that no keeper would ever have got near. Tavernier trusted his technique and got his rewards.
You’ve seen enough of James Tavernier over the years to know he’s got what it takes. As captain, he never shirks away from responsibility. It was a difficult situation for Tav after that first goal. It’s at home, the fans aren’t happy, and it’s against a strong Celtic team looking to go 12 points clear at the top, but once more he showed what he’s made of. A captain has to stand up, there’s no two ways about it. It comes down to the individual, and in Tavernier, Rangers have a fantastic leader.”
Last season Tavernier played an instrumental part in Rangers making the Europa League final, where he finished top goal scorer with 7 goals and made the Europa League team of the season. With the greatest respect to Sandy Jardine and Danny McGrain, who were phenomenal footballers and legends of the Scottish game – in my opinion, James Tavernier is the greatest right-back to ever play in Scottish football.
The modern game is more demanding on footballers nowadays with how intense, and fast-paced games are. They need to be on rigorous diet and training regimes, and the millions of pounds that are poured into the game show that it’s more difficult for players now to be at the very best compared to yesteryear. 100 career goals (92 of them coming at Ibrox), 129 (112 of them at Ibrox) assists, and 490 club appearances (379 of them at Ibrox) for the Rangers captain.
By: Scott Bradley / @ScottBradleyX
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Ian MacNicol / Getty Images