Unless you were keeping a close eye on Leeds United’s academy back in the late 2000s, you may not have known James Tavernier had come up through the system at Elland Road.
The full-back was a part of the club’s academy system from the age of nine after being picked up from local side Farsley Celtic. The Bradford-born ace would then spend six seasons at Leeds, predominantly playing in a central midfield role, before eventually making the switch to Tyneside to join Newcastle for nothing.
And since then, it’s been nothing short of an impressive career for Tavernier.
After being shipped out on loan several times whilst with the Magpies, the now 29-year-old has really found his feet north of the border with Rangers, developing into one of European football’s most attack-minded right-backs.
As per Transfermarkt, the Englishman has bagged himself a career total of 71 goals at senior level, with 63 of them coming with the Gers. What makes that incredible record all the more impressive has been the fact he has also stepped up with a mammoth 89 assists, and all of that has come in just 284 games – essentially, even as just a full-back, Tavernier averages more than one goal contribution every other game.
It’s been no surprise then that the defender has earned some considerable praise, not least from Gers boss Steven Gerrard who waxed lyrical about his consistency levels.
He said: “When we turned up we knew we had the best right back in the league, and that’s stayed the same. His consistency has been outrageous really. He’s gotten stronger and stronger as the games go on.
“He’s led his team to three European runs in succession, so he deserves a lot of credit. The good thing is he’s available all the time, he puts himself out there, and the numbers for a full-back, no matter what league or what level you’re playing at, are outstanding.”
Now a title winner at Ibrox, Tavernier himself meanwhile has previously admitted that he grew up loving Leeds, and even name-checked Lucas Radebe as the man he looked up to in his younger years.
He revealed: “My idol would be Lucas Radebe. The captain of Leeds, ‘The chief’ as he is known at Leeds. He was a great leader back in the glory days of Leeds and I just remembered him being such a figure at the club.”
As is always the case when it comes to young players, there’s just no telling just how good they could end up being, but given just how good and successful Tavernier has been since his exit from Elland Road, this must surely go down as a disastrous call from then owner Ken Bates back in 2008.