After featuring alongside him on the scoresheet for Rangers against Motherwell on Saturday, James Tavernier has now joined Martyn Waghorn in expressing a desire to remain at Ibrox for the long term.
The full-back had an eventful afternoon in Rangers’ 2-0 Betfred League Cup win, coming close to being at fault for a goal in the opening minutes after a short backpass created an opportunity for Scott McDonald.
Rangers looked particularly vulnerable in these opening stages; not only Tavernier, but the entire Rangers rearguard struggled to cope with Motherwell’s fast-breaking forwards.
However, Tavernier soon reconnected with his goal-scoring form of last season, when he netted 15 times, to put Rangers ahead shortly after half-time with a neat finish from the edge of the box. He has now scored Rangers’ opening goal of the campaign for two successive seasons.
When Waghorn joined Tavernier on the scoresheet in time added on, directing a fine left-footed effort in off the post from 18 yards, a resigned smile likely crept across the faces of those in the Rangers communications department.
The identity of the scorers meant that of course they would be the ones required to face reporters afterwards, which meant only one thing: the conversation turning, eventually, to the currently vexed question of their futures. Both players have reportedly rejected new contracts.
Once the new season’s niceties had been dispensed with – “good to see you again”, “can you talk us through the goal” etc etc – the subject turned to what those on one side of the table wanted to get to all along; the supposed breakdown in contract talks between the club and the pair.
Manager Mark Warburton had already expressed puzzlement at why focus was being directed on Waghorn and Tavernier, who both have two years left of their current contract in any case. What about Andy Halliday, he wondered? What about Rob Kiernan, and Wes Foderingham?
“I don’t understand where this has suddenly come out. It has obviously been leaked from somewhere,” Warburton added. “These conversations go on day in day out with players and their agents. Clubs are always talking.”
Tavernier claimed he did not realise his future had even become an issue. “I don’t really read the papers,” he said. “I’m fully committed to Rangers. I see my future at Rangers.”
But he seemed to concede there were complications arising from initials talks. Things, he admitted, had been “chucked up in the air a wee bit”. There was, he accepted, the potential for frustration to set in. However, he was determined to concentrate on football. As with Waghorn, he felt more comfortable leaving others to sort out contractual matters.
“Me and my family love it here and I know that Waggy and his family absolutely love it up in Glasgow too,” stressed Tavernier.
“We see our futures at Glasgow Rangers, and I’m sure it will get sorted out soon. It’s just normal contract negotiations. This happens up and down the country no matter what club you’re at.
“You go through a process, but it’s obviously been chucked up in the air a bit. You can take it two ways, you can either get frustrated or you can concentrate on the football. If you look into it too much it might throw you off on the pitch and you just can’t let that happen.
“You’ve got to be fully concentrated on what’s happening on the pitch and that’s what me and Waggy have been doing. The gaffer has seen that and Davie [Weir] has seen that, so we’ll just keep working hard to go forward.
“We’ve got two years left so there’s nothing to worry about,” he continued. “We love it here and we’re working as hard as possible to become better players and obviously make Rangers a better team.
“This is a fantastic club and you’re not going to find a lot of clubs like this around the country. It’s a special place to be and the club have always been very good to me. The gaffer has given me a foundation that I’ve always wanted and I’m trying to repay that.”
Tavernier and Waghorn were equally unequivocal about where they saw their future; it is at Ibrox.
But whether they sign up for the long term remains to be seen.
As for the short term, what can Rangers achieve in this coming season, following Saturday’s victory at a ground where no Premiership side will find it easy during the coming league campaign?
“We want to be in Europe and we want to be a serious threat for the title. Our aim is to be right up there,” said Tavernier. “You can’t just say that you want to smash the league this year, but we are fully and absolutely committed to trying to win the league.”
Motherwell’s aims might not be so ambitious and they have been rocked by the news that Louis Moult, a second-half substitute at the weekend, will miss the next six matches, including the league opener against Kilmarnock.
Moult, who scored 18 goals last season, is due to have an operation on his groin. It is a particular blow since Motherwell’s defeat on Saturday was partly down to their failure to take chances, in the opening stages especially.