Kris Boyd has penalties sympathy for Rangers captain James Tavernier but urges team-mates to step up for spot-kicks
With 20 of the 138 goals he scored for Rangers coming from the spot, Kris Boyd is well placed to understand the weight of responsibility which lies upon any designated penalty taker at the Ibrox club.
It’s why Boyd is both sympathetic towards the current difficulties being faced by James Tavernier and bemused that the right-back has not conceded spot-kick duties to one of the Rangers strikers before now.
After Tavernier’s third miss of the season from 12 yards against Motherwell on Sunday, Rangers manager Steven Gerrard appears poised to remove his skipper from the firing line the next time a penalty comes his team’s way.
With Tavernier’s troubles from the spot coinciding with a general dip in form for the 27-year-old, some Rangers supporters were less than understanding in their reaction to him on Sunday.
Boyd feels criticism of Tavernier is harsh, especially given his previously exceptional record with penalties, and suggests the scrutiny should instead be placed on why others are not volunteering for the role.
“I do have sympathy for Tavernier,” said Boyd. “With the amount of penalties Rangers have had over the last couple of years, he seems to be the only one who puts himself forward to take them.
“That will probably change now he is under a bit of pressure. But there have been a number of pressure penalties for Rangers in recent years and he’s stepped up and taken them.
“People have short memories. From the spot last season, he was unbelievable, scoring 14 out of 16.
“It’s not happened for him this year and, from what Steven Gerrard is saying, it is time to take him off them.
“It’s easy saying ‘take them off him’ but you also need to have characters in there who stand up and accept the pressure of taking the next one. It will be interesting to see who grabs that ball if there is another one in the next couple of weeks.
“I’ll never understand why, at big clubs, strikers don’t take penalties. It’s a free shot at goal. If you are going to get to the target you set yourself as a striker at the start of a season, you always looked at between five and eight penalties being part of that. You hope you play your part to get the team results, but at the same time it gets your goals tally up.
“I would always have my striker taking the penalties. But they need to be able to handle it, step forward and accept the pressure.
“You have more chance of getting penalties with Rangers or Celtic, so you have to be able to handle it.”
Boyd believes either Alfredo Morelos or Jermain Defoe should take on the role for Rangers, although he recognises Gerrard’s rotation policy with his two main strikers is a complicating factor.
“That’s the problem,” agreed the former Rangers and Scotland striker. “One week it’s Morelos who starts, the next it’s Defoe. So it’s very difficult to pinpoint one of them and say to them ‘you’re on penalties now’.
“James Tavernier is on the pitch every week. He has missed three this season but I think a couple of mistakes he has made in open play as well has probably highlighted it more.
“Yes, there have been a few mistakes from him in games but people forget the amount of times he has saved Rangers. It might be from a penalty kick or a set play delivery – and he did still set up the winner against Motherwell on Sunday – or just from his attacking threat going forward.
“He is probably a victim of the modern-day full-back syndrome. If all you do is sit back and defend these days, you probably don’t play.
“Now a full-back is asked to take part in the final third and get balls into the box. You look at the ones deemed the best in the world and they ain’t judged on defending. It’s about how many opportunities they create for team-mates and the quality of their final ball into the area.
“For me, there are probably only about six or eight games a season over the 50-odd that Rangers might play where James Tavernier comes under pressure to defend.
“For the rest, he is always a plus point in terms of set-piece delivery and crosses. There is no doubt his technique is fantastic in that respect and he does offer Rangers so much going forward.”
Boyd fully expects Tavernier to emerge positively from his current trials, backing the mentality of the Rangers captain.
“There has been players who have come to Rangers and Celtic and crumbled through the years,” he added. “I have yet to see James Tavernier crumble and I don’t expect him to either. He has that arrogance, in a good way, and a confidence to keep playing the way he does.
“For me, over the course of a 50-game season I think he will have a big impact in 40 of them.
“In the bigger games he will be asked questions defensively but that is the modern-day full-back.
“Their weakness now is their defending. Unfortunately you can’t have everything because if you did, you would be worth £50 million and the top boys in England would be after you.
“For most of the games, Tavernier will be an asset to Rangers although there will be times he costs them points.”