PHILIPPE Clement today explained how Rangers captain James Tavernier helped him to extinguish the “fire in the building” after he arrived at Ibrox – and lauded the right back for his “crazy” goalscoring form.

Tavernier netted two penalties in a 3-0 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park in Perth this afternoon – a result which ensured the Glasgow club leapfrogged Celtic into first place in the cinch Premiership.

The second half brace took the 32-year-old’s tally for the top flight leaders to 19 in the 2023/24 campaign and to 120 in total.

Clement, who replaced Michael Beale in October when the Govan outfit were trailing their city rivals by seven points, singled out his skipper for special praise after a victory which moved his side two clear in the table.

The Belgian explained how the Englishman, who is now in his ninth season in Scotland, had given him the lowdown on the behind-the-scenes issues which needed to be addressed in a one-to-one discussion after he was appointed.  

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“I am happy with Tav,” he said. “He was the first player I talked with. That's normal when you come into a building and you know the fire is going on. I wanted to see how to stop it as fast as possible so I wanted all the information. It's normal to speak first with the captain.

“He was really open and honest about all things in the club, dressing room and himself also. He feels good also. There is a divided leadership with several players who take responsibility, but they have a really good connection together.

“If you're all alone you can be alone in the desert, now he has a few lieutenants around him that help also and are very influential. It's important to have that.”

The Herald: Rangers midfielder Mohamed Diomande, centre, celebrates scoring against St Johnstone in the cinchAsked about Tavernier’s impressive strike rate, Clement said: “It's crazy. I don't know if there ever was a defender scoring more goals in Scotland or Europe. He has a lot of quality in that.

“But not only penalties, he's scored important other goals like in the cup final (in the Viaplay Cup final win over Aberdeen in December), for example. And he is doing a really good defensive job because in the first place, he is a defender for me, not an attacking player. He is not busy with stats to play for himself but for the team like they all are.”

Clement reiterated that he and his players are not looking at their position in the Premiership at this moment in time – but he expressed the hope that Rangers are on the verge of something “really special”.

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“Beginning is maybe exaggerated, but for sure we can grow a lot,” he said. “If I see how they are playing now compared to four months ago we cannot speak about a beginning because that was the beginning.

“There is a lot of room for progression. It's clear they all are growing in these past couple of months without exception. We are going to invest a lot with all the staff in them and they invest a lot in themselves and the group because every day everyone is super focused.

“I didn't have any problems with that in these four months - that' s the first time in a team I didn't have to smack somebody who is not focused or not motivated. It's a really important thing but they all feel they are in a really special story and it can be a really special one.”

Rangers moved above Celtic in the Premiership for the first time in two years today – but Clement reiterated that he is not interested in the Ibrox club’s league position and only cares about them improving further in the coming weeks and months.

 "We are not looking at that,” he said. “Our challenge is to be better every week, better every month. Not every game you can be better - that's impossible - but we try to do that. We try to develop as individuals, as a team, to become better and adapt to circumstances.”

Clement started Mohamed Diomande for the first time in the Premiership this afternoon and was delighted his £4.5m January signing, who played in a deep-lying position alongside John Lundstram, broke the deadlock with a long-range strike eight minutes before half-time.

“It's good for him of course to feel good directly in the team,” he said. “It's because of all the people around him. Connor (Goldson) and John (Souttar) and Lunny (John Lundstram) speaking a lot with him.

“And players in front who are available to receive the passes. It's about the connection together. He adapted really fast because the others are helping in that way really good. 

“He can play in all three positions, we had a lot of talks with him about that. I also want to know players really well when they come into the building. I want players who are available for the team and don't only come to play their own game or position. Dio can play three positions in midfield without a problem."