If there’s been a Rangers player more divisive and the topic of contention to a greater extent than captain James Tavernier, we can’t remember him.
We do recall Josh Windass certain caused a few arguments, but nothing like the tribalism we see over James Tavernier.
Rightly or not, Cyriel Dessers even mentioned it recently, that if the captain was the target of that kind of abuse and controversy, no one was safe, and it is true that Tavernier gets a lot more flack pretty much than any other Rangers captain in the history of our club.
However, Ibrox Noise, historically a big critic of the RB, was adamant that the arrival of new manager Philippe Clement was a clean slate.
That all players enjoyed a reset under this boss, and that all previous opinions, good or bad, were themselves erased and the new chapter with the Belgian at the helm contained no baggage.
And on that basis, Tavernier has had a very strong start to life as Philippe Clement’s captain, and while the boss may elect to change leader to his own preference in due course, that would be his call entirely.
Only the display in Prague saw Tavernier deliver a lot less than the rest of the defence, a notably subpar display in which he was quiet at best and poor at worst.
But the other four have been strong.
Yes, he’s been caught napping once or twice, but Clement has absolutely changed Tav’s positioning, and his heatmaps demonstrate a massively-improved discipline in which the defender is covering his own half as much as he is the opponent’s.
If we look at Dundee, Tavernier’s stats make for interesting reading. He only tried to make 4 crosses the whole night, none being any use, but compared with Ridvan who shovelled in 12 attempts and 5 were good, the change in the captain is clear.
Look at Tav’s heatmap v Aberdeen in Beale’s final Rangers match:
Now compare with Dundee:
The change is clear.
Despite this change in position and massively-increased positional discipline, he’s still very much getting in on the act with scoring, but not via open-play goals – no, via set pieces, suggesting pre-planned routines rather than his randomly running in and shooting, leaving the backdoor wide open.
Are we saying Tav is now our favourite player? Not at all, what we are saying is he’s clearly enjoying the big uplift Philippe Clement has given the whole team, and we have a manager who actually knows what to do with the players he has. Tav is more disciplined, defending better, and attacking at the correct times rather than all the time.
It was a hard reset for Rangers under this manager, and few players in the team aren’t taking the chance they have.
And that appears very much to include James Tavernier.