He has scored more goals than Harry Kane and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, has scored more from open play than Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo, is English and plays at right back. Yet Rangers‘ James Tavernier is still struggling for recognition south of the border.
Tavernier took his season’s tally to 16 goals and 12 assists as Rangers beat Ross County 4-0 on Sunday and extended their lead over Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership to 13 points.
Manager Steven Gerrard described his captain as ‘sensational’ and compared him to other accomplished full-backs such as Kyle Walker and Glen Johnson.
James Tavernier has been in brilliant form for runaway Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers
The right back has 16 goals and 12 assists to his name already this season in all competitions
JAMES TAVERNIER’S BEST STATS
Rangers’ James Tavernier has provided more assists in Scottish Premiership than any other player since start of 2018-19 – also scored fourth most goals (27) with only Edouard, Morelos and Cosgrove scoring more
Across his 16 league matches, Tavernier has made 35 tackles and 15 interceptions. On his watch Rangers concede just an average of 4.6 shots on their own goal per game across all competitions.
He has either scored or assisted in each of his last 8 Scottish Premiership appearances (8 goals & 5 assists)
‘It’s top level stuff,’ said Gerrard. ‘I have played with some fantastic attacking right backs, Kyle Walker, Glen Johnson, Steve Finnan to name a few. Tav is right up there.
‘The pleasing thing for me is he is still contributing to the other side of the game. He’s pressing, he’s aggressive, he’s winning his duels, stopping crosses.
‘Our clean sheet record, to me, is just as important as James’ other numbers. Where he is right now, he needs to bottle it and stay there for as long as he can because he’s in fantastic form.’
Stepping into December, Tavernier is now just one short of his Rangers season’s best of 17 goals and has set his sights on hitting 20.
The surprise for many in Scotland though is that the 29-year-old has not been snapped up by a Premier League side.
Bradford-born Tavernier started out at Leeds United’s academy, played for Newcastle United, Wigan and had several loan spells, before joining Rangers in 2015 when he was signed for a bargain £200,000 by Mark Warburton, now boss at QPR.
West Ham, Crystal Palace, Tottenham, Newcastle and Everton have all been credited with interest in the right back who has just 18 months left on contract but offers have been scarce or dismissed by Rangers.
There is no doubt players in Scotland face a sterner test to prove themselves as the league suffers for its perceived lower standard in comparison to the English top flight. Yet talent such as Liverpool’s Andy Robertson, Aston Villa’s John McGinn and Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney continue to emerge.
Steven Gerrard has compared his Rangers right back to England international Kyle Walker
Former Scotland international Neil McCann played for Rangers but made the transition to the Premier League at Southampton under Gordon Strachan.
Now working as a media pundit, McCann says he would be extremely surprised if English clubs did not make a move for Tavernier in January.
‘Listen, I don’t want James Tavernier to leave Rangers,’ insists McCann.
‘I firmly believe they have a chance of winning the title, or at least a trophy this season, and he is fundamental to it but I’d be very surprised if a Premier League club does not make an approach for him in January.
‘In fact I can’t believe they haven’t had offers for him already.
Tavernier has been instrumental for Gerrard’s side, who sit 13 points clear of arch rivals Celtic
‘To turn out statistics like he does, there can’t be many full-backs in world football who can match that.
‘Kieran Tierney is a terrific player and he left Celtic for £25million but he wasn’t turning out the figures that Tavernier has. Whatever league you are playing in, to attain those numbers is not easy.
‘The doubts have often been about his defending but that aspect has been terrific this season. Rangers have only conceded three in the league, they have kept 14 clean sheets out of 16 games and Tavernier has repeated that form in Europe against some quality opposition.
‘Without question, he has improved under Steven Gerrard and matured with the responsibility. He doesn’t need to cajole those around him, he leads by example.
The surprise in Scotland is that Tavernier hasn’t been snapped up by a Premier League side
‘People forget the mentality required to play for the Old Firm up here. The demands, the pressure, it’s on you every day of the week.’
Indeed, that pressure is mounting on Celtic manager Neil Lennon as Rangers threaten to ruin their fierce rivals’ prospects of 10 league titles in a row.
‘Tavernier has been with Rangers through the lower leagues,’ says McCann.
‘There is a real chance that if he sees this season out he could end up being heralded as a legendary captain who stopped Celtic winning ten in a row.
‘I’d hate to see him go and I hope he extends his contract at Rangers but those figures won’t be going unnoticed.’