Rangers legend ready to welcome James Tavernier into exclusive club of Ibrox title-winning captains

Terry Butcher currently holds a unique place in Rangers’ history as the only Englishman to captain them to the league title.

The English connection is strong again at Rangers as they pursue a first title in a decade under the leadership of manager Steven Gerrard and captain James Tavernier. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
The English connection is strong again at Rangers as they pursue a first title in a decade under the leadership of manager Steven Gerrard and captain James Tavernier. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

When Butcher’s thunderous header in a 1-1 draw against Aberdeen at Pittodrie clinched the crown for Rangers in May 1987, it was the first time in nine years the Ibrox club had become Scottish champions.

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Rangers: Get the latest team news, match previews and reports

Their wait so far this time is one year longer and Butcher, who won three titles as skipper after his high profile transfer from Ipswich Town, has no doubts how momentous it will be for Tavernier if Rangers see the job through over the coming weeks and months.

Terry Butcher is congratulated by Rangers chairman David Holmes after receiving the Scottish Premier Division trophy at Ibrox in 1987. (Photo by SNS Group).

Stopping the 10

“It will be a lovely feeling for James if it does happen, although even at this stage I wouldn’t want to tempt fate,” says the former England captain.

“For the Rangers fans, it will be a dream come true in many respects - to come from where they were in 2012 to where they are now. It’s a remarkable story and fair play to everyone who has played a part in it.

“It now looks as if they are about to achieve what everyone connected with the club has wanted throughout that journey, to win back the title and stop Celtic doing 10-in-a-row.

Terry Butcher scores the goal against Aberdeen at Pittodrie which clinched a first league title in nine years for Rangers in May 1987. (Photo by SNS Group).

“When I reflect on that first one at Pittodrie, I always remember when we were going for the English title in 1981 at Ipswich, my central defensive partner and good pal Russell Osman was friendly with Mike Summerbee who had won it with Manchester City in 1968.

“We used to see him socially and he was always telling us that the feeling after the game when we won the title would be unlike anything else in football - you can win cups, other trophies, Player of the Year awards, but Mike said winning the title would mean more than all of those.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t get to experience it with Ipswich because we lost out to Aston Villa on the final day that season.

“We had the compensation of winning the UEFA Cup that year but it wasn’t until after the match at Pittodrie with Rangers six years later that I realised what Mike told us was very true.

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“Sitting there with a beer, realising your team were the champions, lifted a whole mountain off my shoulders.

“The celebrations afterwards were sensational, seeing Rangers fans all the way back down the road.

“If, as looks likely, the title will be won this season without any supporters being there, I’ll feel sorry for the players that they can’t celebrate the way they would want to. But that feeling of winning the title will be just as special.”

The English connection

The biggest English influence on Rangers’ current revival has been wielded by manager Steven Gerrard and Butcher feels the club’s directors deserve credit for the longer-term view they have adopted over a tenure which began in the summer of 2018 and has yet to deliver any silverware.

“Steven hasn’t won any trophies so far but you really do need time as a manager and I’m glad the Rangers board have understood that,” adds Butcher.

“If you’re lucky as a manager, you might take over a team which is ready to win things right away which takes the pressure off.

“But any manager will tell you that if they are given 18 months to two years to put their own ideas into place, to build the squad they want, then they’ll have a chance of delivering what the club wants from them.

“Steven has certainly repaid Rangers for the time they have given him, first of all in terms of the progress they have made in the Europa League.

“Now he looks as if he is going to give the Rangers fans the only thing they have really wanted, to win that 55th title and stop Celtic getting the 10-in-a-row.

“If Steven lands that, he will be a Rangers hero forever. His place in the club’s history will be absolutely secure, no matter where his career takes him.

“He has instilled a higher level of professionalism at the club and the players have really stepped up this year.

“They are winning games even when they are not playing particularly well, which is the sign of champions, and in the key games they have been tremendous at getting the job done.

“Celtic were the dominant team for much of the last Old Firm game but Rangers are able to deal with days like that now and have players who can step up to be match winners.

Defensive solidity and a golden oldie

“James Tavernier’s level of consistency has been very good. He scores goals, creates chances and plays his part in what has been a really solid defence.

“You need players with a voice. I think communication is something lacking in a lot of modern-day players, so to have those types within your squad is really valuable.

Allan McGregor in goal is a golden oldie, he’s been tremendous. He barks away constantly and demands high standards from his defenders.

“The clean sheet record is obviously superb this season and I’ve been impressed with Connor Goldson’s part in that too, he’s a very reliable centre half.

“But I think the blend of the team is the most significant factor in how well Rangers have done this season.

“There is a togetherness and steel about them. There is a lot of experience down the spine of the team with players like McGregor and Steven Davis.

"I’m sure Steven Gerrard and his assistant Gary McAllister will make sure they are not overconfident or that they put the tools down. I don’t think that will happen. But they haven’t won it yet, so that little caveat is still there.”

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