Steven Gerrard tells James Tavernier to stay on the spot for Rangers

James Tavernier knows he may never get another chance, never mind a better one, to score the first hat-trick of his career than the one he selflessly passed up at Ibrox last Saturday.

Rangers captain James Tavernier. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

But the Rangers captain believes his decision to hand the last of Rangers’ four penalties in the extraordinary spot-kickfest against St Mirren to team-mate Jermain Defoe will have been more than worthwhile if the veteran striker goes on to play a key role in winning silverware for the club this season.

Tavernier had already converted two penalties, either side of slamming another against a post, when he acceded to Defoe’s request to take the last one and claim a first goal at Ibrox.

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“Looking back at it, it’s maybe something I will regret on a personal level further down the line,” admitted Tavernier.

“I maybe scored a hat-trick when I was a young kid, but I’ve never scored one as a professional. So I did think about that a little bit after the game.

“But it was one of those situations where Jermain came to me and asked if he could score his first home goal. So it was a decision I made and felt comfortable with to let him get on the scoresheet.

“I obviously thought ‘we are a team, we are all here for the same thing.’ If giving up that goal helps Jermain for the next run of games then I’m happy that I did it.

“I don’t want to be selfish and take that away from someone if I can help a team-mate go on and score more goals. As I say, it’s something I might look back on and regret a little 
later in my career, but right now I’m hoping I can put myself in that situation again. I didn’t say to Jermain ‘I want a hat-trick’ on Saturday. It ran through my head, but I didn’t say it. I was more thinking about the team.”

It’s a circumstance which Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has ordered Tavernier to avoid in future, however, having witnessed Alfredo Morelos make clear his displeasure at Defoe jumping ahead of him in the penalty-taking pecking order.

“We have had it made clear now that from now on I am not allowed to do that,” added Tavernier. “I am the designated penalty taker and, if I’m not on the pitch, Alfredo is 
second in line. As long as I am on the pitch, I will be taking all the penalties.

“It can get a bit heated at times, when other lads want to take the penalty as you saw on Saturday. But it’s definitely been clarified and it will 
obviously stop in future the madness of people trying to run to grab the ball.”

Tavernier knows Rangers are collectively on the spot this week as their hopes of success in both the Premiership and Scottish Cup face acid tests on the road, at Aberdeen tonight and Kilmarnock on Saturday respectively.

“We can’t afford to drop any more points in the league because we’ve got to expect Celtic to win their games,” said the 27-year-old. “So it’s a must-win game against Aberdeen. We can’t get a draw, we don’t want that. We want to win and we then have Kilmarnock in the cup. We know this week has to be two wins to keep ourselves in a good position for the title and reach the quarter-finals of the cup.”

Rangers are seeking a first win of the season against Aberdeen, having conceded a 
stoppage-time equaliser at Pittodrie on the first day of the Premiership campaign before losing 1-0 to the Dons in both the Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden and in the league at Ibrox in December.

“We don’t feel as if we’ve maybe had the results we deserved against Aberdeen,” said Rangers boss Gerrard. “Wednesday night at Pittodrie is another chance to try and put that right. We know where we have gone wrong and what we need to put right.

“It’s a great fixture for the players. The rivalry between Rangers and Aberdeen is 
bigger than I realised before I came to the club. Now I totally get it and understand it. I’ve been educated as to what it’s about. Obviously nothing will ever compare to the Old Firm rivalry, but Aberdeen is probably next in line for Rangers. It’s a bit like Liverpool-Manchester United, it’s got that derby feel to it.”