James Tavernier’s Rangers heroics show he could play for English Premier League heavyweights claims Richard Gough


They call them ‘numbers’ these days but back when Richard Gough was pulling the armband over his bicep they were simply known as goals and assists.

But whatever James Tavernier calls them, the Rangers nine-in-a-row captain describes them as phenomenal.

Tavernier arrived at Ibrox in the summer of 2015, a £250,000 buy from Wigan that will surely go down as one of the best pieces of business the club has ever done.

Since then, the right back has played 339 games, scoring 79 goals with 106 assists to his name. One hundred and seven if you count the cross that was touched by Kemar Roofe into Scott Arfield’s path for the equalizer in Sunday’s epic Scottish Cup semi final win over Celtic.

That match was watched by Gough from his base on the other side of the Atlantic but the thousands and time zones did nothing to diminish the former Ibrox skipper’s delight at the result, nor his admiration for the manner in which Tavernier goes about his business.

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“From a playing perspective, since Tavernier came to the club his appearance record is phenomenal,” Gough told RecordSport .

“I look at my time at the club and it was roughly 11 years and I played 428 games in all competitions.

“I know they’ve had a lot of Europa League qualifiers over the last few years and Rangers have probably played about 60 games a season in general, but his consistency and robustness is unbelievable. He has hardly missed a game through injury.

“I know he takes penalties but his scoring record for a full back is off the charts. I don’t think there’s anyone like him, anywhere.”

The 60-year-old believes Tavernier’s positive mindset is key to the numbers he has hit – and isn’t having anyone knocking the goal stats because he’s the spot kick taker.

“The courage he shows taking penalties is testament to his mentality,” Gough added. “People used to say to me I was a courageous footballer but I wouldn’t have wanted to take some of the penalties he has taken under extreme pressure. That takes a certain kind of mind. A very strong mind and a very positive mind.

“I played as a full back at times, particularly at Dundee United, and I was a different kind of player to him. I would bomb forward and people would be telling me to get back but to score, you have to make those runs. You have to get in there. I scored against England by just running into the box from open play.




“Tavernier does that a lot. For me, he has been an exceptional servant for Rangers.

“Steven Gerrard made him the captain and he is the type of captain that I like. He is not bawling and shouting at everyone but he tries to lead by example.

“And he is some football player. He is a brilliant football player; very good with the ball and he has a terrific right foot. His engine is unbelievable. He must be the fittest boy at Ibrox by miles.

“I used to pride myself on my standards of fitness but the only player I’ve seen get up and down the park the way Tavernier does is Gary Stevens.

“There is a comparison to be had with Gary Stevens, absolutely. Gary played 52 times for England and I had never seen an engine like he possessed until James Tavernier started doing what he’s doing. Or myself when I was 21 at Tannadice, flying up and down the wing!

“He’s a great runner, he’s quick and he’s got everything and he gets in the box and can finish. Some of his free kicks from him, both in terms of delivery and in actual efforts on goal have been incredible over the years and he does it on the big occasion, time and again.

“Three goals against Borussia Dortmund, two against Braga and one against Red Star Belgrade. These are major, high pressure football matches and this guy delivers.”

Gough believes Tavernier could be plying his trade in the English Premier League with every club bar the absolute elite.

“The only reason he is not playing for England, or at a very top end English Premier League club, is because there is a perception that he is not an absolutely first class defender,” he said.

“But he has improved loads in that respect and there’s no doubt in my mind that he could easily be playing for most clubs in England’s top flight. Particularly with the way attacking full backs have become so vital to the way the game is played. He would be perfect for it.

“I’m just highlighting why he’s not playing for Liverpool or Man City. But most of the others? No problem.

“I look at Gerrard going to Aston Villa and he has Matty Cash, now a Poland international, playing at right back. He’s a good player, but in my opinion, Tavernier is a better player.

“To be honest, if Rangers played three at the back with Tavernier as a wing back, it would suit him even better. As an out and out full back, when he first came to the club, he was getting caught out at the back post a lot with guys coming inside of him. That’s the difference between him and Gary Stevens – Gary was a dirty b******, who wouldn’t think twice about leaving something on the winger he was up against.

“Gary and Davie Robertson on the other side were as good – or as bad – as each other, I used to wind up wingers when they switched wings, telling them: ‘You think Robbo’s giving you a hard time? Wait until Stevens gets a hold of you!”

“As an ex-football player, I just like watching him. He’s got an energy about him. He’s been a marvelous signing.

“The one thing he needs as a Rangers captain is to lift a few trophies.”




www.dailyrecord.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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