300 not out: James Tavernier embodies Rangers' rise to where they are now
The skipper has been the one constant since Rangers’ return to the top flight in 2016 and has experienced the good times and the bad. A summer arrival on a free transfer from Wigan Athletic in 2015 under Mark Warburton, he has won the Championship and the Premiership in his six years at Ibrox, but has also suffered cup agony at Hampden and European embarrassment.
That Progres Niederkorn moment has been well and truly eclipsed by some stirring nights in the Europa League. Now the proud wearer of the captain’s armband and contracted to Rangers until the summer of 2024, a testimonial is not out of the question for the buccaneering right-back who has become such a darling of the Rangers support.
He has scored 66 times for Rangers, an astonishing figure for someone who is primarily a defender (even taking into account penalty-kick duties), and has brushed up on that part of his game. Called out for supposed fragility when under pressure a couple of seasons ago, Tavernier has improved significantly and embodies the resurgence of Rangers as a club over the past few years.
In truth, Rangers have done well to keep him. Top-flight English clubs have shown an interest, his attacking traits a desirably commodity in the Premier League. There have not been many concrete bids for him, but it would have taken a lot of money for Rangers to sell and the player is nice and settled in Glasgow.
Now, for the first time in his Rangers career, he has a serious pretender to his right-back throne. Teenager Nathan Patterson has burst on to the scene. The 19-year-old plays a lot like Tavernier and was linked with a move to Everton in the past transfer window. Current manager Steven Gerrard has a welcome problem on his hands as he tries to keep both happy.
Tavernier has the shirt for now, though. He was good again at Dens Park although Rangers as a collective aren’t at their best, and played a part in Joe Aribo’s winning goal, striding forward and feeding the ball into Alfredo Morelos to assist the Nigerian. The defending champions remain on top of the table, a point clear of their nearest challengers ahead of two big matches this week against Sparta Prague in the Europa League on Thursday and then Hibs at home on Sunday.
Tavernier took time to reflect on his milestone moment in the wake of the triumph on Tayside.
"300 is a lot of games,” said the former Newcastle United trainee. “It feels like they've come fast. It's about the overall team progression we've had since I've been here. We're reaching new heights and always demanding and wanting better from each other.
"It's been some journey. It's been a roller-coaster. We've had last season where we were successful in the league but we want to improve on that and try to get into the Champions League next season and be better in the domestic cups.
"We're always hungry for more. It's been a great journey but there's loads more to go. I can't wait to see what the future brings."
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