James Tavernier believes Rangers supporters are fully entitled to demand Premiership title success under Steven Gerrard’s guidance this season.
The hype surrounding the appointment of the former Liverpool and England captain as manager of the Ibrox club has encouraged many of their followers to believe he can bring Celtic’s current domestic dominance to an end at the first time of asking.
Rangers face a mouthwatering fixture on the opening weekend of top-flight action when they face Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday and new club captain Tavernier is confident they can hit the ground running.
The right-back feels Gerrard’s input has already improved Rangers as he moulds a squad with the mentality needed to meet the levels of expectancy surrounding them.
“The fans have wanted that title ever since the first season we came into the Premiership and I don’t blame them,” said Tavernier.
“They’ve not had the title for a while and one of the reasons I wanted to come up here was to win major trophies. The boys know the expectations of the club and the expectations of the fans. We obviously want to meet the requirements.
“It’s exciting times taking this responsibility on. There’s always expectations with anything that comes with Rangers but there’s a lot of media attention with the gaffer and we’re more than ready to cope with everything that comes our way.
“It’s an exciting start and starting the campaign with Aberdeen away gets it over and done with. We’re looking forward to it. You always try to set the standards from the first game of the season. In the past we’ve sometimes not got the results we’ve wanted but we want to go up there and get the three points.
“We had a good head-to-head record against Aberdeen last season but it’s obviously different teams. Hopefully, we’ll have a good battle but we can come out on top.”
Gerrard’s immediate priority in the job was to tighten up a porous defence and the early signs have been positive on that front with clean sheets in their three Europa League qualifying matches so far and another couple of shut-outs in friendly matches.
But Tavernier and his team-mates also got their first taste of Gerrard’s reaction to anything which falls short of his requirements when he gave them a verbal volley at half-time of Sunday’s 3-0 win over Wigan at Ibrox.
“The quality level has gone up and the manager has raised the standards on and off the park,” added Tavernier. “The Wigan game was the first I’d seen him as angry but it was deserved after the first half.
“We didn’t come out the blocks as we wanted to in the home game. We waited for the game to come to us which we shouldn’t be doing.
“We should be taking the game to anyone who comes to our home. We shouldn’t need the gaffer to give us a kick up the backside – we should be doing it ourselves but it worked because in the first 15, 20 minutes of the second half we were a different team.
“We knew it was always going to come out of him at some point. He’s always been a strong leader. He’s always said if we need a kick up the backside then we will get it. It is better that it’s happened in a friendly than in a league match. That’s just the standards he sets – whether it’s a friendly or a league match standards are always high and we always want to win.
“We want to be competing for everything. We want to be there all the way in the league and everyone wants to win the cups. That’s our aim. We have not specifically set any targets. But we’ve obviously got the Europa League and we want to do well in the second leg against Osijek on Thursday night and get into the next round. Then we want a good start to the league season on Sunday.
“We’ve got four new faces at the back this season if you include Allan McGregor in goals. Connor Goldson and I have a really good relationship and it’s getting stronger and stronger. On the left side, Jon Flanagan and Nikola Katic have a great relationship. That’s been shown in us keeping five clean sheets. The lads in front of us are helping us out too. We have resilience and I feel we are only going to go from strength to strength.
“I think the manager has improved the spine of the team massively.
“The two centre-backs, the midfielders and a new striker have come in and we know we can score goals and have a good solid defence that can keep clean sheets.
“There are lads fighting for places all over the field and that can only improve the squad. Time will tell if we’re stronger, but I’d say so. It’s a long season.
“The boys have a winning mentality and we will go into every game wanting to win and these who aren’t in have the fight and hunger to make an impact. The quality and the hunger of our play has gone up since the manager came in.”