UEFA Europa League final: Rangers captain James Tavernier – interview
Wednesday, 18 May 2022
"We've come together so well, we've been pushing each other on and it's no surprise we're in the final," says captain and top goalscorer James Tavernier as Rangers gear up for Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville.
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After losing the first two games of their UEFA Europa League group stage campaign, and before manager Steven Gerrard left for Aston Villa in November, Rangers looked like long shots to reach the final, but with some inspiring guidance from captain James Tavernier, the Light Blues have made it.
Surprise top scorer in the competition with seven goals, the 30-year-old right-back has stepped up in the absence of Rangers' injured striker Alfredo Morelos. The former Leeds United and Newcastle United defender tells UEFA.com how Marcelo and Dani Alves are his footballing role models, and how Rangers have kept coming good in Europe.
On facing Eintracht Frankfurt in the final
It'll be special. Obviously it's a team of 11 players that's going to be in front of you, and we know that if we're the best version of ourselves, we put in the best performance and we leave everything out on the pitch, then we'll have no regrets. The occasion's going to be massive; you'll obviously have to soak it up, it's a final, but you can't let that, the nerves, or the occasion get the best of you.
Frankfurt pose threats, which you've seen against West Ham, with their attacking play. We've got to respect them, and regardless of what position they are in the league, we've got to expect the quality they've got so that's what we'll do. We'll be taking our game plan into that game and try and execute it the best that we can.
On being one of the most attacking defenders in Europe
I always loved getting forward, even if it's in training; I love scoring goals. I guess I've just been really competitive since I was young; I always wanted to get on the scoresheet. You look at Trent [Alexander-Arnold], at Reece James, at Dani Alves, at Marcelo, at Roberto Carlos… you see very attacking full-backs in the modern-day game now, players [who are] defenders not just to defend but you're also a main attacking point [whether] that's creating crosses, assists or goals.
I always looked at Marcelo or Dani Alves; they were my go-to guys, even Cafu. When I was much younger, I loved watching the Brazilians; how they played and how attacking they were. You look at how decorated Dani Alves is, and Marcelo; how they've been top of the game throughout their career. They're people that I really [look up to].
Do the forwards at Rangers feel threatened by my goalscoring? I'm still going for Alfredo [Morelos]. He's our top goalscorer, and I've got to get three more to beat him. That's my aim so I'm looking forward to it.
On being Rangers captain
It's just been trying to be the best version I can be on the pitch for the players, trying to lead by example and be the best driving force I can. Hopefully, I can carry on doing that when the final comes.
We've got a great group of boys: great experience in Greggsy [goalkeeper Allan McGregor] and Davo [defender Steven Davis], Aaron Ramsey who's joined us, Connor [Goldson]... there's a few more that I can name. We're a great group of boys and it is the best changing room I've been in. If anyone needs a push, we're all there together. If anything needs changing, we'll all have a chat with each other, but we're all on the same page.
On Rangers' journey to the final
We've come together so well, and we've been pushing each other on and it's no surprise we're in the final. We thoroughly deserve it because we push each other every single day to better ourselves. You want to compete with the best teams in Europe. It sets a marker where you want to get to as a minimum, you want to beat that, and we've done that.
Funnily enough, I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago with Connor [Goldson], and I said: "We've got a good chance of this." We've beaten Dortmund and you've got to back yourselves. We're playing against another team that's knocked out another favourite in the competition: West Ham are in the Premier League. So we'll know to respect [Frannkfurt], because they've earned the right to be in the final, but we'll fully back ourselves going into a one-off game.