It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since James Tavernier first set foot inside the Ibrox Stadium. Three years since he first arrived at Glasgow Rangers he was handed the captaincy by Steven Gerrard, marking the occasion by scoring in the 2-0 win over FK Shkupi in the Europa League in 2018.
Gerrard knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a great captain, with his unwavering loyalty and ability to deliver when it mattered the most some of his most defining traits during his time at Liverpool.
Writing in The Daily Mail, as quoted by The Glasgow Times, Brian Laudrup compared the skipper to the manager. He said: “How would you sum up Steven Gerrard’s mentality as a player? Relentless seems like a good word.
“You want to see relentless? Look at James Tavernier in action this season. He is perpetual motion in games always running, always closing down space, always trying to ask questions of the opposition.
“When the camera pans to him in matches, you can also see Tavernier making demands of his teammates. Keep going. We need more. The same was coming from Gerrard, who didn’t even look happy when Rangers went 3-0 up after 19 minutes.”
In Tavernier, the Gers have the archetypal full-back of the modern game, a player known as much for his ability as his physicality. Former Ibrox boss Mark Warburton signed him from Wigan Athletic in 2015 for an undisclosed fee, believed to be somewhere in the region of £225k. He has seemed highly suited to Gerrard since he first took charge of Ibrox in terms of his character, personality, professionalism and flexibility.
As the old adage goes, attack is the best form of defence, as the 29-year-old is already the Scottish Premiership’s top scorer this term, having scored eight goals and supplied six assists in the league so far this season, but that’s not all he has to offer.
Gerrard has arguably transformed Rangers into a side that is known for its’ aggressive, attacking, possession-based brand of football. Tavernier’s role as an attacking right-back has seen him bomb up and down the wings with Borna Barisic on the opposite flank, pinging in crosses left and right for the likes of Alfredo Morelos, Jermain Defoe and more recently Kemar Roofe.
At the beginning of his career at the club, he was criticised for his poor defensive performances, but he has steadily improved over the years. Per SofaScore, he is averaging 2.1 tackles, 1.2 interceptions and 1.2 clearances per game in the Premiership so far this season. By comparison, even Connor Goldson is only managing 1.1 tackles per league game, as per SofaScore.
Whilst the focus is very much on his “outrageous” attacking heroics at the moment, his contributions at the back should not be forgotten about.