Big Read – James Tavernier, Rangers, and his place at Ibrox

Big Read – James Tavernier, Rangers, and his place at Ibrox
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - APRIL 08: Michael Beale speaks to James Tavernier of Rangers FC during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic FC and Rangers FC at Celtic Park on April 08, 2023 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Our earlier piece on James Tavernier was greeted with a mixed reaction from Rangers fans – some were delighted he’s seemingly staying, others couldn’t have driven him to the airport quick enough.

And that is the basis of the club captain – he’s been a total constant since 2015, a-near ever-present, and he divides the supporters a lot.

In this article, we’re going to look at both his strengths, and weaknesses, and try to understand properly why this 31-year-old is so polarising among the Rangers support.

We begin with his strengths, and one of those is the sheer stats. It’s the main strength, in truth, where Tavernier scores a staggering number of goals and gets even more assists. In his 402 club appearances he has 101 goals and 117 assists. By any stretch of the imagination that’s a superb return for any player not designated as an attacker.

He is also reliable – Tavernier is rarely-to-never injured, meaning in those eight years he’s amassed that 402 outings for the club averaging a stunning 57 appearances a season. That really is consistency and owes a lot to how professional and resilient he is. He takes very good care of himself.

There’s also the fact that he provides such natural width on the right – Tavernier, as the latest Blue Cafu, constantly marauds down the right to the effect of a winger, spraying crosses in and frequently offering overlaps. He’s a major aspect of the balance of the Rangers team over the last near-decade.

And lastly is his increasing maturity. He has, in recent years, grown more into the captaincy role by taking a lot more flak when things weren’t going well. He has frequently faced the media and the fans after bad results, which is something he didn’t use to do. The captain is supposed to do that and he’s grown into that role.

But of course, Tavernier has his weaknesses, and we know his fans reading this have been bracing for them, so here we go. Because, sadly, there’s a lot of them.

Firstly as a defender he’s caught out of position far, far, FAR too much. The biggest deception of his (impressive) defensive stats is that an interception done in the opposition half still counts as a defensive stat, making it sound like he was inside his own half doing his job, when mostly he was taking advantage of slack passing in the other half. And that’s the nub of his defending – when it comes to his own half, he’s caught napping frequently, and it costs Rangers a boatload of goals.

During 55, an on-fire Ryan Jack constantly covered for Tavernier’s permanent forays into the opposition half, and it meant the defence remained rock solid and we conceded very few. But that Jacko is gone, and no one else does that job now, meaning Tav’s continued jaunts do not have any support covering them, and we concede constant stupid goals.

Tavernier’s constant defensive lapses have been accepted by his managers, who have simply tolerated the reality that we will always concede as long as he’s RB. Michael Beale was one of the most vocal to actually admit the way he sets his team up will always concede goals because the margin for error is tiny. That margin for error is basically called James Tavernier.

Next up is his captaincy. We were stretching it to praise his growing maturity as a captain. He’s 31, not 23, and the fact we had to actually spin it like that shows what a ridiculous captain he’s always been, and how weak all our managers since (and including) Steven Gerrard have been to refuse to pick their own leader on the pitch.

Gerrard picked Tav because it was the easy option at the time – Tav was one of many temporary captains at that moment cycling with the job, but next-to-no Rangers fans wanted him to get it permanently. And five years later, as a leader on the pitch goes, Tav has been excruciating. He has no leadership qualities, he is not someone anyone looks up to among the playing squad, and he’s got no aura.

Compare him with the Barrys, the Goughies, the Butchers – the titanic major personality loud captains we had in the past, and tell us he’s the right man for the job. Dick Advocaat had no qualms relieving Amo (himself a big personality too) of the captaincy, because of all his errors on the pitch – the Italian was gutted but it was the right call. Advocaat had the backbone to do it, and Barry was a massive replacement and the right man.

No one has the guts to tell Tavernier he’s not up to it. The next point then is ‘who replaces him’ – well last season any number of bigger personalities could have had it. Jack, Arfield, Lundstram, McGregor, even Goldson – you may disagree on one or two of these, but all five of them have a bigger case for being captain. Today? Even Cantwell and Raskin have a better case!

Next we have his goals and assists. Now, these aren’t technically a bad thing, right? Surely he deserves praise for all his stats and they are top numbers.

Yes, they are – but they stop him doing his actual job. Tavernier spends so much time scoring penalties and glorious goals that he forgets to defend. That’s his primary job. It’s like praising a striker who defends all the time, doesn’t score, and we all rejoice at the brilliance of his latest clearance. Meanwhile we’re hardly scoring any. But that’s ok because he’s good at halfing the strikers.

Lee McCulloch was a classic striker who ended up being a defender, admittedly not being a great one, and the fans were not thrilled with it at all. He sadly ended up being booed by his own fans. Maybe not quite the same here but you get the point.

Tavernier is NOT a winger, he’s NOT a striker, and by being a pretend version of both he neglects everything he’s supposed to do at the back.

Last but not least is the harsh reality he is not actually very good. He was rejected by relegated Championship side Wigan (where he was on loan from Bristol) for goodness’ sake, he didn’t make it in England at all and we got him for £200K. He will never leave for the Premier League because 1: no one at that level has ever made a serious bid for him 2: he would end up a lot worse off than Joe Aribo.

He suited where we were at the time, but to suggest James Tavernier is a Premiership Rangers-level right back today makes a mockery of real ones like Gary Stevens, Alan Hutton and Nathan Patterson.

Two of these were outstanding for us, one never got the chance to properly be due to the immunity of Tavernier. It took three seconds for the Premier League to snap up Patterson for £16M, 8 years into Tavernier’s time at Ibrox and no one’s even seriously bid for him.

We know, we know, a lot of this piece probably sounds like a mini hate-fest. It’s not meant to be. Tavernier is a decent enough guy who represents the club well off the pitch, but he’s a milder version of Jon McLaughlin on it who was a League One goalie that couldn’t believe his luck to be playing in the Champions League for Rangers. He was humiliatingly awful.

Tavernier might have been decent enough in the Europa League but his debut in the Champions League exposed him completely as he nervously waddled around the Amsterdam Arena and couldn’t cross for toffee – now for older Bears, remember Alan Hutton’s debut in 2007, such as the night he destroyed Stuttgart at the same level. And he was only 22.

That’s what we expect, what Rangers fans should expect.

We’re just trying to be absolutely honest about the guy, without being cruel, trying to fairly sum up what he is and isn’t in the shirt. We’re sure a lot of you will be unable to disagree with a lot of this article. And a lot of you are hurling abuse at your screen!

But in this day and age, many of our fanbase has changed and will defend the ability of players like Tavernier who are clearly well short of the level of the likes of Hutton and Stevens, and indeed Patterson.

We will always support our players, and back them in the shirt, we will continue to do that with Tav – but don’t ask us to lie about his qualities and pretend he’s Gary Stevens’ equal.

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  1. Like I said earlier I do Love Tavernier, but tbh even I cannot pick fault in this article much to my annoyance. 💙💙

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