YOU could have bet any money – in a Ladbrokes shop, of course – that James Tavernier would score success in the SPFL sponsors’ Championship player of the month stakes.
It could hardly be any other way when the Rangers right-back has proved such a wiz in the wagering stakes for so many of his club’s fans.
Tavernier was odds-on for Ladbrokes’ August accolade after starting his Rangers career with six goals in the ten straight wins achieved under Manager of the Month Mark Warburton. Such goal-plundering exploits have also had a knock-on effect in the spondulicks to be made from backing the 23-year-old to score on any matchday. The Bradford-born performer is currently hovering around the 2-1 mark. Few defenders can ever have been so meagerly priced.
Bookies wising up to Tavernier might deny the summer signing from Wigan one of the wackier aspects of his time in Scotland. He revealed: “There have been a few fans come up to me to say I’d won them some money and I see the odd betting slips on my Twitter timeline that guys have sent me.
“They’re trying to put a bit of pressure on me but it’s obviously something to be glad about.
People [though] have been telling me that the odds on me have been rotten lately.
“It’s enjoyable to see on Twitter that fans and other people have done well from my goals but I do feel bad for them when I don’t score and they’re losing some money. I could send them some money… but that might be a lot of people.
“I’m surprised by the number of goals I’ve scored, but the formation and the way we play lets me attack a lot more and get into the positions for scoring chances. I have good banter with the strikers and attacking midfielders when we do shooting sessions in training because we always have really good competition. It’s always something to be happy about scoring that many goals.”
Tavernier has been such a stand-out that it is perplexing that he couldn’t establish himself in a Wigan side on their way to sliding out of England’s second tier last season. There was no shame in his inability to make the breakthrough at first senior club Newcastle United – and gaining experience at a host of lower league clubs as he attempted to do so – but, within six months of his move to Lancashire last summer, he was punted out to third-tier Bristol City.
Yet Tavernier would not baulk at the suggestion that, while Scottish football has been treated to his array of attacking weapons, including his dead-ball prowess, he hasn’t really been required to show what he is made of as a defender. It isn’t his fault that he hasn’t had to do so, but he maintains that the prevention of goals absolutely matters more to him that scoring them.
If offered a 5-1 win with a strike for himself, or a 4-0 in which others claimed the counters, Tavernier maintains he would have an easy decision.
“I’d rather the clean sheet. That’s the main thing. We want to have clean sheets and scoring is a bonus but we’d rather have zero goals against us,” he said.
“My aim is to get the winger to defend more than me, rather than the other way. It’s only going to test me more, which I want. We’ve just got to see what comes from it for the team.
“I love defending as well. When I’ve had to defend, I’ve defended but, with the way we are playing, we’re very dominant on the ball.
“We are trying not to let the opposition have any time. Even if they win it back, we try to get it back in the first five seconds or force them to go long and give it back to us.
If we all defend as a team, we really don’t have to defend as individuals.”
The imperious nature of Rangers’ form has generated talk of them winning every league game this season.
Even with their financial advantages which, unlike last season, are being used to great effect by the club’s manager, it seems fanciful to expect a further 26 games to be negotiated without a slip. Yet, Tavernier chose not to be dismissive of such an outrageous sequence.
He added: “It’s obviously something to look on but we’re just looking at the short term. We’re looking at blocks of games and we’re wanting to set goals out and win as many games as we can. We take every game as it comes and on Saturday we want to go there [to Dumbarton], win the game then concentrate on the next game.
“We don’t concentrate on the five games that are up ahead. We’ve got a big game on Tuesday night as well [at home to St Johnstone in the League Cup] but we’re looking to Saturday first and foremost. We’ll prepare as we normally do.”