JAMES Tavernier has expressed trust that because of their current playing team, Rangers will escape the devastating slumps they have suffered in the last two seasons.
At present, the right-back and his teammates are sitting 16 points clear at the top of the Premiership table and will look to raise their Scottish title hopes tomorrow afternoon at Ibrox with a victory over Celtic, who have played three games less.
At this stage of the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons, however, Steven Gerrard’s side were severely threatened, ending up nine and 13 points behind their city rivals respectively.
However, as Gerrard now has a good squad at his disposal and the attitude of his teammates is still in place, Tavernier has no reservations about history repeating itself this season.
Last season, the Liverpool and England international brought in Leon Balogun, Calvin Bassey, Ianis Hagi, Cedric Itten, Kemar Roofe and Bongani Zungu, and the captain believes the Govan club can help put past failures behind them.
“There are a lot more different players, so I would imagine the mentality is different,”There are a lot of different players, so I’d imagine the mentality is different. We’ve been well recruited. We’ve got a really strong, powerful team. So we’re not really worried about the past. That’s behind us.
At the beginning of the season, we had one purpose in mind: to go into every single game and play our best. So far, we have been able to do it. Everything we have to do is continue that.’
“We know that if we win the game tomorrow, we’re not going to win the league,” Taverner added. We know a lot of games are left to play.
This game is as critical as the St Mirren match, so we have to approach it with the right attitude and try to get the three points.
“We just need continuity to be upheld. This season, we’ve played very well in the league and we need to keep it up. We’re just halfway there, though. We did half the job.
“Now we have to keep doing what we’ve been doing and approach every single game with the mentality of a cup final – and put in a really good, strong performance. So that’s our goal for tomorrow.”
Tavernier, who since August has scored 17 goals in all competitions, making him the all-time leading scorer in the Premier League, hopes the Ibrox game will support Rangers against Celtic, even though there will be no fans attending.
But the defender knows that he and his teammates will have to be at their best in order to score all three points against a winning opponent in their last six matches.
“Of course you miss the fans when you play at home,” he said. But it’s our pitch, the atmosphere and the scale of the pitch we’re more familiar with. So it may be in our favor.
“But it’s a game of soccer. I’ve played games like this a lot of times and it depends on who wants it most during the day. So we have to go the right way around it and approach the game the right way.
Earlier in the season, we had a game against them and put in a good show. But then we carried that form throughout the season. That’s why I say we just need to keep that consistency.
Along the way, we can’t hit any stumbling blocks. We just have to concentrate entirely on the game ahead. We know they’ve got good players who can hurt us, so we’re going to be completely centered on that day. We just need to do well with it – and prove that we want it more.
It’s sad that there will be no spectators. These are the games where you want to hear the noise on the pitch. But you see what’s going on in the world, of course. First, you still think about safety. You don’t want to put the life of someone in danger.
“Health and safety comes first, so it’s one of those points where we wish fans could come to the stadium earlier – but we just have to deal with how it is tomorrow.”