Steven Gerrard has called on Rangers supporters to rally behind James Tavernier and help the club captain through his current slump in form.
Rangers manager Gerrard admits he will now consider removing penalty duties from Tavernier, who missed from the spot for a third time this season in his team’s scrappy 2-1 win over Motherwell at Ibrox on Sunday.
Tavernier has attracted criticism in recent weeks for some of his performances and there were signs of disgruntlement towards the right-back from some of the home fans as Rangers struggled to earn the victory which keeps them level on points with Celtic at the top of the Premiership.
Gerrard praised Tavernier’s resilience as he provided the set-piece delivery which saw Filip Helander head home Rangers’ 80th-minute winner and predicted the 27-year-old will battle his way back to top form. “I don’t think you can doubt James’ character,” said Gerrard. “He knows that, in the last couple of weeks, he’s been in the firing line.
“I’d like the crowd to help him a bit more. Sometimes when it’s tough and you’re not at your best, you need your crowd to be with you rather than against you.
“So there’s a plea for the crowd to stay with him because he will play through it and he can change games, like he did for us today.
“It was an excellent delivery for Filip’s goal and a fantastic header. But James needs his people now –it’s important.
“There were a few groans and moans today and it doesn’t help. I understand it. I totally get it. I was just as frustrated as them today.
“But when you are a player in the firing line and not everything is going for you, you need your people with you. You need your team-mates with you. Especially where we are.
“Yes, we haven’t hit the level today, but we are in a good place in the Europa League, have a semi-final this weekend and are top of the league besides goal difference. We need the fans with us.
“The fans have been absolutely outstanding with me from my first day here, so write about that. But not every player stays at the top of their game for 60 games. It doesn’t happen. Big players are going to have dips.
“But when you feel them on your back even more, it is very difficult to play through it and find form as quick as you can.
“We need our punters with us. They are always with us in terms of the bigger picture and getting behind the team, of course they are, but groaning when someone overhits a cross or blah, blah, blah – it doesn’t help.
“I will consider [taking James, pictured, off penalties]. I don’t think I have to make that decision right now but it will certainly be on my mind over the next 24 to 48 hours.”
Gerrard’s disappointment with his team’s display, just three days after their impressive Europa League draw in Porto, did not prevent him from paying tribute
to Motherwell’s part in their
“We certainly weren’t at our best, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s been a crazy week, really. On Thursday we probably put in our best performance as a group and hit a level I was very proud of. I praised the players, because they were exceptional across the board.
“Today we weren’t at our best but have done ever so well to find a way to win. I must give credit and pay respect to Motherwell, who I thought were outstanding.
“They had a lot of pace up front and a lot of direct running. They have players who do the basics very well. Outside of Celtic, they are the best team who have come here this season.
“Winning ugly is probably the best way to describe it for us. There was a big improvement in the second half but we’ve definitely
got away with one today.”
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson felt Rangers’ equaliser in first-half stoppage
time should have been disallowed for a foul by scorer Jermain Defoe on Liam Donnelly in the build-up.
“We’ve been beaten by a set-play and a very, very dubious decision for their first goal,” said Robinson. “They [Donnelly and Defoe] come together and if they come together and he falls over and it’s accidental, it doesn’t matter. If we got in 1-0 up at half-time, then it might have been different but sometimes these things go against you.
“I’m proud of our performance for 93 minutes, By the end Rangers were hanging on. Listen, they are a top side – you don’t go to
Porto and get a draw if you are not a top side. They are an excellent
side and for us to come here and create chances with their fans
getting frustrated shows you how far we have come.”