“If you need a goal, just stick Tav at the back post,” Connor Goldson says wandering past as he chimes in on the conversation.

He's only half-joking. Tavernier’s 117 goals from right-back have not only been achieved through an excellent penalty record, long list of wonder strikes from range and free-kicks. Goals in the penalty box, more akin to the track record of a striker than a right-back, make up much of the tally.

In part two of an exclusive interview with the Rangers Review, Tavernier talks us through some of his famous goals, the importance of movement in the box, why playing at right-back allows him to ‘arrive’ in dangerous areas, following the ball like a striker, modelling his free-kick technique on David Beckham, providing under pressure and more.

You can read part one, focusing on his journey at the club, life under Clement, captaincy, ambitions and regrets by clicking here.

For now, here’s how James Tavernier sees his game…

Scoring at the back post

Tavernier was the joint top-scorer in the 2021/22 Europa League campaign and although that included four penalties, he recorded strikingly similar goals against Borussia Dortmund, Braga and RB Leipzig. Arriving onto a cross from the left while rampaging forward from right-back on the opposite side.

Where better to start than his opener for Rangers in that 3-1 win over RB Leipzig?

“I was saying to Raz (Ryan Kent) before this game ‘Get me at the back post,” he says.

“There was a similar chance in the first leg where I was there. That was a key tactic in the run, me being at the back post because the opposition was under pressure to attack. The way we were playing gave me the freedom to attack the back post. I think it started to put a bit of fear into the opposition.”

That missed opportunity referenced, in the 1-0 away leg defeat at Leipzig, proves Tavernier’s point.

Having picked up a loose ball in midfield and fired a pass into the feet of Joe Aribo as the visitors transition forward, Tavernier continues his run while the midfield pairing of Ryan Jack and Glen Kamara hold their positions to cover his position.

As Kent reaches the box and faces up his man, Tavernier moves into the blindside of his marker Marcel Halstenberg, who is gradually attracted towards the ball.

The right-back is free just yards out at the back post having worked a few yards of space, but Kent fails to recognise the opportunity and instead pulls a shot wide. The captain, who can be heard shouting, kicks the post in frustration.

By the following week, Kent had learnt his lesson. Prompted by his captain’s pre-match reminder.

“In this case, it was just about trying to be onside, time my run and hope Razza found me,” Tavernier says watching back the strike.

Kent chose to pick out the far post with his left foot this time, instead of aiming for the far corner.

It’s pointed out by the Rangers Review that Aneglino, Leipzig's left-back, is repeatedly scanning his shoulder for Tavernier’s movement. He knows what Rangers are planning but, given Tavernier’s timing, cannot stop what had become a Europa League inevitability by this point.

“Guess who, James Tavernier,” roared Rory Hamilton on commentary. Nobody, least of all Angelino, was surprised at the scorer.

‘Following the ball like a striker’

So, where does this instinct in front of goal and forward-esque movement come from? And why does right-back enable, rather than restrict, Tavernier’s capacity to score? To find out more, we take a trip back to the start of that European run, watching back the goal which sealed a memorable 6-4 aggregate win over Borussia Dortmund.

After a half-time move to five at the back enabled Calvin Bassey to push forward on the left, Tavernier was also freed up on the right where his second of the game would arrive from. Latching onto a whipped cross, getting his knee over the ball and sending Ibrox into a state of bedlam.

“All strikers are told you should follow the ball,” Tavernier continues, speaking like he is a forward because, in these scenarios, he very much acts the part.

“I’ve always had an instinct in the box. I have a knack of sniffing the right moments. I love scoring goals and always have done. I have the intuition of when to get in the box, knowing when players will deliver. With this one, I’m anticipating the defender will miss it and I'm focused on being in the right place at the right time.

“Calvin has the ball and I’m thinking if he beats his guy I might have a chance. He has good trickery and it was just getting that movement right as the ball came in. I’m not even moving quickly, it’s about picking the right moment,” he adds, explaining how he evaded the attentions of Jude Bellingham at the back post to score after the ball missed Alfredo Morelos and Mats Hummels. Remaining behind the now-Real Madrid midfielder until the very last second.

Tavernier adds: “It’s about anticipating what could happen. If Alfredo hits it, I’m still in the right position. If he doesn’t then it’s about still being in the right position and being ready but making sure my marker doesn’t know I’m coming.”

Performing under pressure

The most recent example of Tavernier providing a ‘moment’ exactly when required came in December’s League Cup Final. As will be elaborated upon, the space in the Scottish game is different and his role at right-back has evolved and changed.

Under Clement, Tavernier is not the overlapping, crossing full-back he was under Steven Gerrard. Instead, the captain is increasingly picking up central positions to protect against counterattacks, find passes from inside the pitch and play closer to goal.

As time ticked away against Aberdeen in a game Rangers had dominated, Clement’s side needed someone to step up and deliver. The protagonist was predictable.

The key to this goal? “Timing. Arriving at the right moment,” Tavernier repeats.

“I said at half-time to Soutts [John Souttar], there was a couple of chances for Ross [McCausland] at the back post. I was keeping really disciplined to nullify the counterattack. I told Souts that I needed to get myself to the back post.”

Look at this McCausland chance in the first half and compare the winger’s role to the position of Tavernier, who is in a central position protecting against counterattacks at the edge of the box.

“Moments before the goal I’d had a word with Dujon [Sterling] to give me a bit of cover and allow me to get forward,” he continues.

“I’ve given Cyriel [Dessers] the shout to go to the front post but he’s stayed where he is. Borna has gone past his guy and that’s my moment to arrive. I can judge the ball a lot better that way."

The big difference here? Instead of occupying the box and being marked, Tavernier can arrive unopposed. This time, it’s the right-back on the end of Barisic’s ball instead of McCausland. 

“I knew where Borna was, I just needed to arrive into the box, it landed perfectly for me and although it wasn’t the greatest of touches, I was focused on getting my foot behind it as quickly as possible. Luckily it went in.”

Tavernier’s explanation reveals a crucial tenant of his goalscoring record - the ability to create chances for himself.

Look at the below frame with Barisic set to cross, the right-back is unmarked on the edge with Aberdeen’s defenders all watching the ball on the left. It’s the timing of his movement, enabling Tavernier to judge the flight of the ball, arrive unmarked and steal a valuable few seconds, that earn these goals time and time again.

And the ability to step up in the big moments?

“I love pressure. I love with abundance the pressure football, and big moments, bring. That’s what you want to play in.”

Backing himself from any range with free-kicks and Beckham

Picking out just one free-kick to show Tavernier is a tricky task. There’s been a couple in recent Old Firm games, ultimately defeats. Then again, Rangers’ lack of difference-makers outside of Tavernier has cost them in these fixtures. More often than not the right-back has been guilty by association.

A strike from all of 35 yards against Dundee United during the 55 season is pulled up. An immediate grin flashes across the interviewee’s face.

“I never feel out of range with a free-kick, I never feel any range is too far out for what I can do,” Tavernier says, explaining his decision to even attempt a shot from this scenario. So ridiculous that United defender Mark Connolly fails to realise the ball has found the net from this angle, turning instead to face play in the clip above.

“Borna was asking me should we cross from here, but I told him ‘I’m hitting this’,” Tavernier says.

So where does the free-kick technique and ability come from?

“I had a back garden in Leeds growing up that was on a slope but there was a clothesline pole bang at the top in the middle. I used to love watching Beckham and every day I was out in my garden just practising hitting that pole time and time again - that’s where it comes from,” he explains.

“The lads joke around with my technique and the arm like Beckham, but I have tried to implement everything from his free-kick style and work hard on them. I wish I could have scored more.”

How the role of the right-back has changed

Perhaps no position demands as much from players as the modern-day full-back. Once auxiliary defenders and very much the supporting cast, developments in the game have seen them often become the primary creators of a team.

If the tale of the last decade was the evolution of crossing, overlapping full-backs who provided width to allow the attacker ahead of them to move inside, think Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold or Tavernier and Barisic, then the start of this one has seen further change.

Smarter defensive blocks and a more compressed game mean wingers have become a staple feature across football again. Now, full-backs are often moving inside the pitch to protect against transitions and enable a wingers' wide berth, as Pep Guardiola popularised while at Bayern Munich. There’s more fluidity. Full-backs don’t only need to support from behind or provide a wide option. Now, they also require the ability to change positions and occupy different zones. 

“Right-back has evolved a lot,” Tavernier continues.

“Across football, you still see a lot of different playing styles. You've got aggressive inverted full-backs like Pep, who even has centre-backs moving into that position. Or Trent [Alexander-Arnold] who moves infield while the left-back at Liverpool, Robertson or Tsimikas, remains wide. It is constantly evolving. "

Is there any player he models his game off?

“You know what, if there are two players I have a look at, it’s Trent and Kevin de Bruyne. They get in those positions deep on the right and they’re whipping balls into the far post on the floor.

"Our games are different up here. We’re often playing against a block so you won’t get that opportunity to hit space. It’s about me perfecting the tools I have and continuing to grow.”

And what about his current role in Clement’s tactical set-up?

“I know the current manager doesn’t want to be too far open on when the ball is on the other side so that’s why you’ll see me tucked in. That also means I can get the ball inside the pitch, and protect against transition," Tavernier continues. 

“In the past, the manager wanted us high and wide no matter what side the ball was on which means centre-backs are prone to the counterattack and maybe have less cover. Now, the gaffer wants us to be a bit more secure and I am happy with that. Whatever the manager wants to do I will always adjust no matter what.

“Playing narrow gives security and the option of me finding passes from inside the pitch. I like overlapping and changing positions but you can do all that throughout the game when it’s the right moment.”

What is undeniable is that at Ibrox, Tavernier has redefined the role and expectation of a full-back. From manager to manager, style to style, the defining features outlined continue to exceed expectations.