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James Tavernier was schooled in Leeds’ academy, sold by Newcastle and has been through Rangers’ dark days – but now has record Dani Alves would be proud of and is in the frame to win Scotland’s player of the year

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James Tavernier was schooled in Leeds’ academy, sold by Newcastle and has been through Rangers’ dark days – but now has record Dani Alves would be proud of and is in the frame to win Scotland’s player of the year

It has been a season that will live long in the memories of Rangers fans and there are many candidates to the Scottish Premiership player of the season.

But there’s one that perhaps stands out a little more than the others – James Tavernier.

James Tavernier joined Rangers from Wigan in 2015
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Steven Gerrard has cemented himself into Rangers folklore by winning the club’s 55th league title – and it’s a hugely important one.

It stopped arch rivals Celtic achieving ten in a row – something that’s never been done before in Scottish football. Both Old Firm clubs have won nine consecutive titles but ten remains elusive.

It also rubberstamps Rangers’ return from the wilderness that saw them kicked out of the top-flight and have to work their way back up from the fourth tier.

Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Celtic Park will be one of celebration for Rangers – although there will still be an absence of fans, meaning the hostile atmosphere is not what it would usually be.

James Tavernier has been a hero for Rangers
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There have been many stars among the Gers’ ranks this season, from Ryan Kent to Alfredo Morelos and Allan McGregor.

Tavernier, though, perhaps deserves special recognition for a number of reasons.

He’s been at the club since 2015 – when they were in the Championship – and scored 15 goals from right-back that season.

The 29-year-old has been a loyal servant to the club over the last six campaigns, taking the captain’s armband.

He’s racked up 284 appearances and scored an incredible 63 times.

Tavernier has found sustained success under Gerrard and this season has been a vintage one.

In the Scottish Premiership alone, he’s scored 11 times and added nine assists in 29 appearances. Not bad a for a right-back, eh?

Tavernier is the current club captain having been appointed at the start of the 2018/19 season
SNS

More goals in the Scottish Cup and the Europa League have made it a fantastic season for Tavernier that has earned him lofty comparisons.

He’s admitted to modelling his game on Marcelo and Dani Alves and has even been likened to the latter.

Speaking at the end of last year, Owen Hargreaves said of his record: “Unbelievable, I think Dani Alves would be proud of those numbers – 15 goals and 10 assists.”

Those numbers would likely be higher if a niggling injury problem hadn’t kept him out of the side for the last month.

He’s working his way back to full fitness and may not be ready for the Old Firm derby, but that is not to lessen his achievements this season.

Commentator Clive Tyldesley has seen a lot of Tavernier this season while working for Rangers TV and he thinks he is more than deserving of being crowned Scotland’s best player.

Tavernier has thrived under Steven Gerrard
SNS

He told talkSPORT.com: “There are several candidates, what perhaps lifts James Tavernier’s claims to such an award over and above everyone else’s is; one – he’s worn the captain’s armband and there’s a huge responsibility that goes with that.

“One of the first things I became aware of when I started travelling up to Glasgow was just how big ten in a row was this season. 

“Almost a shadow that was hanging over the Scottish Premiership as neither of the Old Firm clubs had managed to win ten titles in a row.

“There was a massive amount of pressure on Rangers to go the distance. They went half the distance the previous season and faded, Celtic claimed their ninth title.

“Captaining Rangers was a huge responsibility.

Tavernier has been integral to Rangers’ title success
SNS

“The second thing to say about James Tavernier is that he’s come all the way with them. He came on that journey that the club has take through some pretty dark days in recent times. 

“James Tavernier was part of the promotion team and at 29 years of age, he is now starting to approach the autumn of his career and it is blossoming in the most wonderful season.

“The numbers are extraordinary, there were a lot of penalties and free-kicks, including some truly brilliant free-kicks.

“He’s actually scored close range goals too, poachers goals.

Tavernier has missed the last few games through injury but is battling to be fit for Celtic clash
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“If you look at Rangers’ style of play that’s been fashioned by Steven Gerrard, it is quite similar to Liverpool at their best.

“One of the features is that their two full-backs, Tavernier and Borna Barisic on the left, are providers of an awful lot of their chances. Both go forward, both are really good crossers of the ball.

“In getting forward to create chances, Tavernier is finding himself in goalscoring positions.

“He’s been a little unlucky in that he’s been injured in the last few weeks, otherwise he’d be breaking all kinds of records.”

The last man to lift a league title for Rangers was David Weir, and he was full of praise for the defender after surviving the lows of his Ibrox career.

Weir said: “I am genuinely pleased for James Tavernier because he has been through it all from start to finish.

“There’s been a real range of emotions there.

“With the nature of Scottish football and the noise all round about it, you are judged harshly sometimes. And sometimes very quickly.

“You know what it’s like.

James Tavernier has been a hit in Scotland
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“Even when Steven Davis came back up from Southampton, people were saying, ‘He doesn’t look the same player, he’s not the guy to do it’.

“Being a footballer in Glasgow isn’t an easy life. Playing for Rangers can be hard. Tavernier has ridden that out.

“People like him are successful because they can manage that and go out and do it on the pitch, where it needs to be done.

“Tavernier has not over-reacted to things that have happened. He’s just done his job and hopefully he gets the rewards for it all soon.”

Tavernier’s route to the top has not been a completely straightforward one.

Born in Bradford, he was a Leeds fan growing up and joined their academy aged nine.

He spent seven years with the Whites before exiting at 16, but his love of the club has continued.

Tavernier was even congratulated by Leeds and South Africa legend Lucas Radabe following Rangers’ title win.

The Bradford-born defender posted a screenshot of the call, with the caption: “One of the most memorable nights I will never forget. Then my boy Bongani Zungu surprising me with a call to my hero Lucas Radebe. One of the best days of my life. MOT.”

James Tavernier was congratulated on Rangers title win by Lucas Radebe

Tavernier showed his support for the club following their promotion to the Premier League last summer, posting ‘Marching on Together’ on his Twitter account.

He has previously spoken of his love for his boyhood club, revealing it was difficult to watch brother Marcus play for Middlesbrough against the Whites at Elland Road.

He said: “I went down to watch him play against Leeds, but that was a bit of a hard one for me because I’m a Leeds fan and was sitting in the Leeds end!

“When I told Marcus I was going in the Leeds end I think he expected it because he knows what I’m like with Leeds. My mum wasn’t in the away end at Elland Road either as she’s a Leeds fan too.”

After leaving Leeds as a teenager, he went on to join Newcastle in 2008 and his debut came in 2009, but several loan spells soon followed.

The right-back was loaned out six times – to one National League side and five League One teams.

Tavernier played just ten games for Newcastle
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Newcastle didn’t believe he’d make the grade at the top level, and Wigan signed him for an undisclosed fee in 2014.

He didn’t last long with the Latics – just 11 games – before he was loaned out of Bristol City for the second half of the 2014/15 season.

Rangers saw something in him and came calling in 2015 and swooped to take him north of the border for a mere £200,000.

That has proved to be one of their best investments in years.

Taviernier hasn’t had it easy and faced strong criticism in his early time at Ibrox.

But he’s now cemented himself as a favourite with the fans and, nearly 300 appearances later, he’s led them to the Scottish Premiership to finally end Celtic’s dominance.

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