If there’s a captain of Rangers who has received more than his fair share of criticism and abuse, it’s James Tavernier.
He’d never been an accepted captain, with the majority considering Steven Gerrard’s decision to give him the armband a rotten error, and in truth, for the early spell of his time as leader, he probably struggled with it.
Fans have had so few words of support for his captaincy, and a wealth of criticism for it and his defending, but while Ibrox Noise holds our hands up collectively and admits we weren’t big admirers of his till way too recently, we also changed our minds on him completely long enough ago now to be able to call out those who didn’t finally relent till maybe this season.
And for all that nonsense he’s taken, he’s the one top of the UEL scoring charts, he’s the one defying physics as both an attacker and defender, and he’s the one leading our players out behind the manager come Wednesday night on the greatest occasion of his and the rest of the players’ careers. Maybe lives.
From that debut in the Challenge Cup, Tavernier has quite simply beaten the haters – he has. He is now the toast of Europe, from his absolutely ridiculous first half of last season to his excellent overall 21/22 campaign, thriving especially since Gio took over, the former Newcastle star has become one of Rangers’ absolute stalwarts and is the first name on the team sheet on any match which doesn’t amount to tiddlywinks.
Signed for £250,000 in a deal alongside Martyn Waghorn, Tav has outlasted everyone at the club: from when he joined, not a soul who was at Ibrox in a meaningful way is still there, sadly, including the one we thought would never leave us in Jimmy.
Tav has had incredible staying power, and the UEL final is about the biggest pinnacle he could have asked for.
He’s really earned this. More than most.