Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has warned his players that none of them is assured of a starting XI place if they slip below standards set this season.
In the aftermath of their 2-1 defeat at Kilmarnock on Wednesday night, Rangers captain James Tavernier revealed that Gerrard has made it clear he will not hesitate to drop even the biggest names in his squad.
It was a miserable return to Premiership action for the Ibrox side following a winter break they went into in buoyant mood after their festive Old Firm victory. They have now dropped to third place in the table, three points behind champions Celtic, who have a game in hand.
Rangers’ away form is seriously undermining their bid to mount a sustained title challenge. They have now dropped 17 points in their 11 league games on the road under Gerrard.
As they prepare for Sunday’s visit to Livingston, where they lost 1-0 earlier in the season, Tavernier admits they no longer have any margin for error if they hope to prevent Celtic securing an eighth consecutive title triumph.
“The gaffer has said all of our shirts are up for grabs,” said Tavernier. “We have a strong squad now and guys have to perform to keep their jerseys. We have shown before this season that we can bounce back and we have the squad that will bounce back. We have to deliver performances for the fans and the gaffer, starting at the weekend and making sure we get the three points at Livingston.
“It was very disappointing at Kilmarnock. We made a good start, our formation was working really well and we got the opening goal. But in this league, if you are going to gift teams chances as we did for their two goals, they are going to punish you.
“It’s so disappointing for the boys, especially given that three weeks ago we put in the type of performance that we did against Celtic. I wish we could have replicated that, but it wasn’t there after the first 20 minutes and when we conceded the goal. We need to have a long, hard look at ourselves.
“We’ve been in the same position before when we have dropped points, but we can’t afford to drop any more. We’ve got to expect Celtic to win every game, so what we can do is win every game going
“We have to put in a lot better performance against Livingston at the weekend and repay all our fans with a performance that they deserve. We said before the Kilmarnock game and the second half of the season that we could not afford to drop points.
“Celtic won and Aberdeen won on Wednesday. We expected them to do that, so we said we couldn’t afford to drop points and it was the manner of how we did and how we conceded the goals that hurt us. We need to have the consistency and replication of what we showed against Celtic.”
After Jermain Defoe, pictured, had put them ahead, Rangers were undone by individual errors by Joe Worrall and Ryan Kent, who gifted possession to Kilmarnock for their goals by Eamonn Brophy and Jordan Jones. But
Tavernier insists he and his team-mates must accept collective responsibility for their latest setback.
“You rally round,” added the 27-year-old right-back. “We are a team and we are in it to the end together. Lads make mistakes during a season. I made one on the opening day of the season. You just have to get around each other, encourage each other and bounce back stronger. So we all rally round Joe and we just have to prove ourselves.
“Joe held his hand up for the mistake and we also said before the game that, on the surface, square passes might get intercepted and might
“It happened again with Kilmarnock’s second goal but Jordan Jones was still able to go a long way along the ground and then put it into the net.
“Those were their two main chances and they tucked them away, but it was criminal from us to gift those chances away. This is a tough league. Everyone we play wants to beat us. They give 120 per cent against us and we expect that. But the only team that is going to really hurt us is ourselves.”