HAVING skippered Rangers to a win which moved them to the top of the cinch Premiership table for the first time in two years and taken his goal tally for the Ibrox club to 120 in the process, James Tavernier would be entitled to spend a little time reflecting on both achievements. 

Yet, Tavernier will be back in at Auchenhowie today to begin preparations for the difficult league encounter with third-placed Hearts in Govan this Saturday and he has no intention of letting up one bit in training.

The right back, who netted two late penalties in the important 3-0 triumph over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Sunday, knows that all of his team mates will be doing exactly the same.

The Englishman has been pleased with how Rangers have acquitted themselves in the Scottish title race since Philippe Clement replaced Michael Beale as manager back in October and is excited they have now edged ahead of Celtic.

However, he knows they can, with 12 games still to be played and another 36 points up for grabs, not afford to relax at this crucial stage in the 2023/24 campaign.

He is determined not to let standards drop in the Premiership, Scottish Cup and Europa League in the coming weeks and months and stressed that he will only look back on what he has accomplished in the game when he is retired. 

READ MORERangers manager on how skipper helped put out 'fire in the building'

Asked about hitting the 120 goal mark in Perth, Tavernier said: “It’s obviously a great achievement. I never imagined I could reach it when I joined Rangers as I had only eight or nine goals before. But I just want to keep helping the team and keep pushing myself. I will see where it ends when I eventually hang up my boots one day.

“There is always pressure, no matter what stage you’re at in the season, even halfway through. I said after drawing against Aberdeen away that there was plenty of games left and we just have to focus on ourselves.

“We’ve got great momentum at the minute and everyone in the team is chipping in with performances. I thought Dio (Mohamed Diomande) on his first start got a great goal, so hats off to him as he’s been a real asset for us. So has Oscar (Cortes) and so has Fabio (Silva).

The Herald: “Dujon (Sterling) also came on and made a real impact down the right side. So I’m delighted for the squad with the way we’re heading. But we can always improve and we’ll continue to ask ourselves to do that. We’ve just got to continue focusing on the next game and go from there.

“I was delighted with the three points we got on Sunday as well as the clean sheet. They didn’t have a shot on goal, which is the most important thing. But we’ve always concentrated on each individual game as they come and getting the three points. We’ve got to be fully focused on that as there are plenty of games left to play.

"We need to continue, not become complacent. We need to keep demanding because there is still a long way to go in the competitions we are in and we just want to make the fans happy and ourselves happy with our performances."

READ MORE:  Philippe Clement's side jump above Celtic in Premiership

Few Scottish football fans could have envisaged Rangers being on top of the Premiership in February after they lost 3-1 at home to Aberdeen at the end of September to fall seven points behind defending champions Celtic.

Tavernier, who lifted the league trophy back in 2021 after the Ibrox club had gone undefeated in the top flight for the first time in 122 years, always believed that he and his team mates could turn things around. But he admitted the arrival of former Genk, Club Brugge and Monaco manager Clement had been the key factor in their revival.  

“It was obviously so early in the season and there were so many games left to play, so many points to play for,” he said. "We always had belief in our team, in the players that we have.

“But the gaffer came in and raised the standards. We had to fully focus on each game at hand keep chipping away, only worrying about ourselves. We can only affect ourselves and I think we’ve been really good. But, as I say, we just need to keep this momentum going.

"It is a great place for the fans and the club. We feed off our performances and how well we are playing as a team. Defensively, not letting teams get a shot on target against us, that's what we aim for. We want clean sheets. And the variety of chances we are creating now is really pleasing, we are always asking questions.”

The Herald: Leading scorer Tavernier has led by example during the past four months. He took his haul of goals for the 2023/24 campaign to 19 with his brace on Sunday. But he stressed that he has several lieutenants alongside him in the team. He is also confident there is enough strength in depth in the squad for Rangers to do well in all competitions.

READ MORESt Johnstone manager fumes after 'incredibly unfair' Rangers penalty

"We have great leaders in the squad,” he said. "We all feed off each other. The manager believes in all the leaders and we continue to amplify his message towards the lads. It starts every day at training, really pushing our standards. But there is no place for being complacent. We need to keep pushing ourselves to be better.

"What people don't see is that at the training ground we are all pushing each other. Everyone is wanting to be in the starting XI. Anybody who is asked to come on the pitch is putting in a really good performance. So it is a headache for the gaffer to select the XI.  But anyone he selects is doing a really good job for the team and that is the main thing.

"As the gaffer said, we are creating a story together and we need everyone to chip in until the end of the season."