Rangers right-back happy to give striker another go

Rangers right-back James Tavernier insists he is more than happy to wing it as a striker if Mark Warburton needs him to push forward once again in future.

James Tavernier was pushed further forward for the Betfred Cup semi-final. Picture: John Devlin

The Englishman was handed a surprise attacking brief by his boss when Gers took on Celtic in last month’s Betfred Cup semi-final.

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Tavernier’s understudy Lee Hodson was drafted into the team for the Hampden clash as Warburton sought to put the shackles on Scott Sinclair.

That freed up Tavernier - who struck a club-record 15 goals for a defender last season - to slot in on the right-hand side of Gers’ front three as the Ibrox side looked to make the most of his eye for goal.

However, the ploy was not enough to shoot down Brendan Rodgers’ Hoops, who marched into this month’s final thanks to Moussa Dembele’s last-gasp winner.

Former Newcastle and Wigan player Tavernier enjoyed the experience, though, and says he is more than willing to give it another go if Warburton comes calling.

He told the club’s official website: “I was a little bit surprised when I found out I was playing there but I was excited to have the chance to be higher up the pitch.

“I am quite used to that position though, I can play higher up in games even if I am playing right-back.

“I did the job that day but I do see myself as a right-back - but if the gaffer needs me to fill in anywhere I am happy to do so.

“People always talk about the threat that Celtic have and I thought Lee and I nullified that down our side for the whole game and we were happy with the performance but not the result which was a killer blow.”

Northern Ireland international Hodson has been forced to play the waiting game since clinching his summer loan switch from MK Dons.

He made his first Ladbrokes Premiership start three days after his involvement in the Old Firm showdown as Gers were held to a goalless draw at home by St Johnstone.

Tavernier, however, was back at right-back as the Light Blues produced their slickest display of the campaign so far with last Saturday’s 3-0 win over Kilmarnock.

But he reckons Hodson’s presence is brining the best out of both he and left-back Lee Wallace.

“Lee is a great lad and he has done well when he has been in that position,” said Tavernier. “It is totally down to the gaffer who he picks.

“I just have to put on the best performances when I play to keep hold of that spot. That is why Lee came in in the first place, to push me and Waldo. It has pushed Lee too and it is great competition for the team.”

A string of injuries and worrying fluctuations in form has made choosing a settled back line a difficult task for Warburton.

But Clint Hill and Rob Kiernan have provided a consistent centre-back pairing for the Gers over their last four games and Tavernier hopes Rangers can now enjoy the benefit of their budding relationship.

He said: “I was delighted with the clean sheet we got on Saturday.

“We have kept a few this season and it has been really good for me and the rest of the back four and Wes Foderingham and Andy Halliday too.

“Hopefully that gives the attacking players a platform to score goal. Defending is my job first and foremost so I was very pleased.

“We have played the same back four throughout most games recently and Rob and Clint are getting a great partnership now.

“They have a few clean sheets under their belt now and they are really communicating well with each other.

“Rob is learning off Clint because Clint has bags of experience and it’s just great to have that mix of experience and youthfulness in the side.”

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