WHEN James Tavernier walked up the famous marble staircase at Ibrox to put pen to paper on his first Rangers contract six years ago, he was left under no illusions about what would be expected of him.

“It’s about winning trophies at this club,” he said yesterday as he looked ahead to the semi-final of the Premier Sports Cup against Hibernian at Hampden this afternoon. 

“The first day I signed here it was one of the first things I saw. I saw the trophy cabinet and how much Rangers have won over the years. We want to carry that on.”

Tavernier and his team mates may well have landed their first Scottish title in 10 years last season, and gone undefeated in the top flight for the first time in over a century in the process, but the right back knows the demands for success and silverware at Rangers are relentless.

He spoke at the memorial service of a man who understood that as well as anyone at Glasgow Cathedral on Friday – legendary former manager Walter Smith.

Smith, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 73 following a long illness, lifted the league trophy on no fewer than 10 occasions during the two spells that he spent in the dugout at the Govan outfit during his distinguished career.

However, he also did well in the domestic cups and won the League Cup six times and the Scottish Cup five times. That is not something that his successors or their charges, for all the progress they have made in the last few years, have been able to replicate.

The extra-time triumph over Celtic in 2011 that the Scot oversaw remains their last success in the Premier Sports-sponsored competition.

Tavernier has been involved in a fair few of the ignominious failures that Rangers have suffered since and is determined to make amends for them by beating Hibs and then winning the final next month. 

“We are always striving to be better, to better ourselves every day and every season,” he said. “We know that domestically in the cups we have not been there.

“We want to build on what we achieved last season, winning the league. We want to take it into this season and have a real good go at it. We obviously want to get to the final.

“Rangers are built off winning trophies and that’s what all the boys know. We are fully focussed on the job in hand tomorrow. We know it will be a tough game, but we are fully focussed and know what we need to do.”

Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who was named as Steven Gerrard’s replacement as Rangers manager on Thursday, decided not to disrupt preparations for the semi-final by taking charge of training at Auchenhowie this week.

David McCallum, Brian Gilmour, Jermain Defoe and Colin Stewart, the interim coaching team, will be in the dugout at Hampden this afternoon and Van Bronckhorst will watch proceedings from the stands.

Tavernier is confident that his side, who are four points clear at the top of the cinch Premiership and bidding to make it through to the knockout rounds of the Europa League for the third season running, will be able to continue their recent form and perform to their best in their first match since Gerrard moved on.

“Training has been really positive and really sharp this week,” he said. “David and Brian and JD have stepped in and taken training and it has been really good.

“We have had to wait for a few of the international boys to come back. They mostly came back on Wednesday and Thursday. So we have had a couple of good sessions together and it has been really good this week.

“I don’t think much changes at all. The way we play, it filters down into the B team and into the younger teams. We have got a great philosophy of the way we want to play and that filters down the club.

“So David and Brian have come in and it has been a seamless transition because of the way the B team play. They have been involved in our training sessions before this season and last season. They have fit in so perfectly. The training this week hasn’t really much changed and I’m sure the tactics tomorrow won’t change much either.”

Tavernier, who put his underwhelming early season form firmly behind him in the games Rangers played before the international break, should once again get the nod to start ahead of his young understudy Nathan Patterson against Hibs today.

However, he admitted that Patterson, who scored the opening goal for Scotland and set up Che Adams for the second in a 2-0 win over Moldova in Chisinau nine days ago, is putting him under intense pressure to perform.

He was pleased to see the 20-year-old make such an impact in a victory that secured a World Cup play-off spot for the national team and confessed he relishes the competition he faces to hold onto his jersey.

"The squad has been built, especially the one we have this season, to have two or three players in each position,” he said. "We are fighting for places and we have been building to that.

"Every player is fighting hard and pushing each other along in each session and each game. We know there is competition all over the pitch and the new gaffer will be seeing that.

"The lads who maybe haven't had a chance, it's a fresh page for everyone now. There is a chance for us all.

"Nathan didn't get too much game-time before the international break but then he puts in that performance for Scotland, scoring a goal and getting an assist.

"But Nathan is training really well every day. He is pushing me and he is developing really well. I want him to develop and he's keeping his head down, working hard, and we are pushing each other.”


James Tavernier was speaking at a Premier Sports Cup event. Premier Sports is available on Sky, Virgin TV and the Premier Player. Prices start from £12.99 per month.