Rangers’ James Tavernier: ‘Disgusting that my wife saw it on TV’

James Tavernier has called on clubs to do more to protect players after his wife was left fearing for his safety as the recent issues with crowd behaviour escalated during Friday night’s Premiership trip to Easter Road.

James Tavernier wantes better security after being targeted by a fan at Easter Road. Picture: SNS.
James Tavernier wantes better security after being targeted by a fan at Easter Road. Picture: SNS.

Just six days after Celtic’s Scott Sinclair was targeted by a thug throwing a glass bottle at the same ground, the Rangers captain was confronted by an individual who evaded pitchside stewards before jumping over the advertising hoardings as the match, which ended 1-1, reached half-time. The pair became embroiled in some shoving before the man was led away by police, with the player unhurt.

“My wife was watching it and it was disgusting seeing that on TV,” said Tavernier, pictured. “She said I handled it really well but you don’t want anyone back at home to see that. She was worried. You don’t want anyone watching to see stuff like that. Hopefully we can kick it out.

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“It is one of those things where your instincts just kick in. Someone has come on, I didn’t know what he intended to do when he booted the ball and caught me. But it is one of those things where you need to keep a cool head and not react.”

The Englishman received an apology from an “embarrassed” Hibernian chief executive Leeann Dempster, who said that a 21-year-old individual had been charged and would receive a lifetime ban from the Leith stadium, but Tavernier says that more has to be done to halt the anti-social behaviour and improve safety.

The Tavernier incident came less than 48 hours before pitch invasions in England, when Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish was attacked by a Birmingham City supporter and an Arsenal fan approached Manchester United’s Chris Smalling, and is another black mark on a season which has been marred by disregard for the safety of players and officials.

In a season of shame, players, coaching staff and match officials have been bombarded by coins and other
missiles this term, one player was attacked by a supporter using a pitchside microphone as a weapon, while other fans have swung punches at passing players. Fans have also been assailed by broken seats and flares. But Friday night’s ordeal was a step too far, according to Tavernier, who said clubs have to do more.

Appalled that, despite improved CCTV and 50 additional stewards being drafted in for Friday night’s game, a fan was still able to emerge from the same section of the ground where the bottle which narrowly missed Sinclair had originated and pose such a threat, Tavernier said that Hibs should be doing more.

“Every time I have played at Easter Road, that stand is normally the rowdy bit where their fans are saying stuff,” he said. “First and foremost, no fans should be allowed on the pitch. That is down to the security. It shouldn’t happen.”

Speaking after the incident,Hibs have said that “nothing was off the table” as they consider the best way to tackle the problem, conceding that they may have to consider shutting sections of their stands.

Tavernier said all options should be explored if supporters couldn’t be trusted to behave themselves.

“No player should be targeted by fans going on the pitch or having coins thrown at them. We had an incident a few years ago where they raided Hampden. These things shouldn’t happen. It is down to the clubs and the security to stop this. It’s stupid. It should be kicked out of

football.”

The SPFL also condemned the latest incident. Welcoming Dempster’s comments, they vowed to exam what can be done going forward.

In a statement it said: “We will of course review the specific circumstances of that event in conjunction with the match delegate and the police and take any appropriate steps.”

PFA Scotland said it is now time for candid and open talks about addressing player safety.