Rangers defence will be platform for silverware - James Tavernier
Captain wants run of clean sheets to continue in Europa League
James Tavernier has urged Rangers to extend their historic run of clean sheets to enhance their prospects of winning silverware this season.
The Ibrox club set a new all-time Scottish record of seven consecutive shut-outs at the start of a league campaign when they beat Dundee United 4-0 at home on Saturday.
The victory kept them three points clear of Hibs at the top of the Premiership table and six in front of champions Celtic who have two games in hand.
Rangers’ unprecedented run of defensive solidity comes on the back of a pre-season programme which also saw them unbreached in wins over Lyon, Nice, Motherwell and Coventry City.
Tavernier is targeting another clean sheet when Rangers open their Europa League campaign with a first qualifying round tie against Lincoln Red Imps in Gibraltar on Thursday afternoon.
The 28-year-old right-back, who marked his 250th appearance for the club with a goal in the win over United, believes the defence are providing an ideal platform for the team’s more creative talents as they attempt to win a first top-flight title since 2011. “It is difficult to put into words what it means to set that record,” said the Rangers captain.
“But it’s credit to the whole team, the entire squad who have been asked to come in and play. That goes from the front guys all the way back to the goalkeeper, all of us knowing our roles and what we have to do.
“We want that to continue, we want clean sheets because it gives us the foundation for our attacking players, who can then go forward and create chances, score goals.
“We now want this momentum to carry on and we go to Gibraltar looking for another clean sheet.
“I’m really excited about what this season might bring. Keeping these clean sheets is about attitude. That’s what we want.
“We were happy with the number of times we kept a clean sheet last season – but we still wanted more. We wanted to beat our record from last season, first and foremost, and we’ve started really well.”
Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard insists his Rangers medical staff are not to blame for Saturday’s injury spree. The Ibrox boss looked on with dismay as four of his key men failed to finish their record-breaking 4-0 win over Dundee United.
Leon Balogun did not even make it as far as kick-off after feeling a quad muscle tighten up during the warm-up. Ryan Jack and Brandon Barker both went down inside the opening 20 minutes with calf and hamstring injuries, respectively.
Gerrard, inset, was then left fearing the worst when Alfredo Morelos, who had replaced Barker, hit the deck midway through the second half following a shocking challenge by United defender Ryan Edwards.
The £20 million-rated Colombian, though, suffered no serious structural damage to his knee but did have to go off on a stretcher with a nasty gash.
Jack spent most of last week with the Scotland squad but Gerrard insists the preparation work of his staff was not the reason for the injuries. He is hopeful Balogun and Morelos will be fit to face Lincoln Red Imps in Thursday’s opening Europa League qualifier.
Gerrard said: “It’s something that we will certainly look into but in terms of preparation and trusting how my staff go about things this is the first time we have had a day like this when things have gone against us.”
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