James Tavernier on a mission to end Rangers’ Euro shame

Rangers captain James Tavernier will seek closure in Luxembourg this week as he bids to open the way for success in what he describes as a “huge” season for the Ibrox club.

James Tavernier was at Hampden for the Premiership captains photocall. Picture: SNS.
James Tavernier was at Hampden for the Premiership captains photocall. Picture: SNS.

Tavernier is one of the survivors of the Rangers side which suffered a humiliating Europa League exit against minnows Progres Niederkorn two years ago while under the haphazard management of Pedro Caixinha.

Rangers take a 2-0 first-leg lead into the second leg of their second qualifying round tie against the same opponents at the Stade Josy Barthel on Thursday night and Tavernier is determined to prove how much things have changed for the better since Steven Gerrard took charge at Ibrox.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It was a different team and different management but for the boys who were here then and for the fans it would be closure if we win in Luxembourg,” said Tavernier.

“It’s in the past now but it’s obviously one of the worst defeats in the club’s history. It’s something that we want to do, just get over the finish line on Thursday night. That’s what we are focusing on.”

Rangers would be in a more commanding position in the tie had Tavernier not been responsible for a rare miss from the penalty spot when he struck the ball against Progres goalkeeper Sebastien Flauss’ left-hand post in last week’s home leg.

It was only the third time the right-back has failed to convert from 12 yards since joining Rangers four years ago, having scored 18 penalties in that time.

“I will still be on the penalties,” said Tavernier. “I’ve scored a few, to be fair. But it was frustrating to miss. I had been speaking during pre-season about the new Fifa rules and what the goalkeeper can and cannot do.

“I was under the impression that the keepers were not allowed to move. Allan McGregor told us during pre-season that keepers had to stay still. I questioned the referee after we got the penalty about the keeper moving and he said ‘No, it’s fine’. That maybe took my mind off it and I tried to put it too close to the post. It happens but I am fully confident in myself to step up and score the next one.”

Rangers completed their pre-season programme with a 1-0 win over Derby County on Sunday and Tavernier echoes manager Gerrard’s confidence they are primed for a stronger challenge to Celtic’s domestic dominance this campaign.

The 27-year-old has been impressed by how quickly the seven new summer additions to the Rangers squad have adapted to Gerrard’s demands, both tactically and in efforts to improve the disciplinary record which undermined the club last season.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We are as ready as we could be,” said Tavernier. “We’ve worked incredibly hard this pre-season, we’ve conceded only one goal so it’s been good from a defensive point of view.

“I’m not really surprised by how quickly the new signings have settled in. We work really hard on the training ground to get all the new boys up to pace. The lads who were here last season can help them out if they need it and the staff have been working really hard on getting them ready and it’s been showing in the games.

“It’s so much easier now it’s the second season under the gaffer. We all know the system and we all know what’s required. The new boys coming in can speak to the boys from last season. We are all here for the same journey, we all have the same targets and we all want to help each 
other out.

“It’s going to be a huge season, definitely. The gaffer has already highlighted it to all the boys how big a season it is. It’s my duty now, along with the other experienced boys, to let the new boys know what it is all about because they will soon know once the season starts. Once the new campaign unfolds they will see how chaotic it can get. But we have a good group of boys and we will let them know that.

“We need more consistency. We can’t take our foot off the gas because we did that last season and we dropped points. That hindered us but we have learned our lessons. We don’t want to be experiencing any of that this season. The first league game of the new season is always very important. It’s against Kilmarnock on Sunday and it’s a new team and a new manager and a new astro pitch, which will help. But we want to start the campaign off with a win.

“If you have any desire to challenge for anything at the end of the season you have to win games and the first game of the season is a must-win 
for us.

“The gaffer has identified that we have to be clinical in front of goal when we have chances. We have to shut up shop at the back and we have to have consistency and be disciplined. If we nail those aspects on the head then we will have a better season than last season.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The gaffer had a chat with us about our discipline and I definitely welcome it. Last season we had too many red cards and too many suspensions. Results might have gone different ways if we had all our players available.

“We want the gaffer to have a headache at weekends with a full team to select. There’s not a lot you can do about an injury but we don’t want people missing due to suspension.”