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Philippe Clement hails influence of captain James Tavernier on Rangers

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 18 Feb 2024

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Philippe Clement spoke about James Tavernier helping him stop the “fire” when he took over at Rangers after the Light Blues went top of the cinch Premiership with a 3-0 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.

Ivorian midfielder Mohamed Diomande opened the scoring in the 37th minute and a late penalty double from skipper Tavernier, which took his Rangers tally to 120, moved Clement’s side two points clear of Celtic with 12 fixtures remaining.

Rangers were trailing their Old Firm rivals by seven points when Clement took over from Michael Beale last October and the Belgian’s first port of call was a chat with the 32-year-old, who arrived at Ibrox in 2015.

Clement, who described Tavernier’s goal tally for a full-back as “crazy”, said: “I am happy with Tav, 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.

“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.”

St Johnstone were still in the game until the 79th minute when veteran defender Andy Considine fouled Rangers substitute Dujon Sterling inside the box and although referee Matt MacDermid did not point to the spot at first, when he was asked to view the pitchside monitor, he awarded the penalty and Tavernier gave keeper Dimitar Mitov no chance.

Then Rangers substitute Tom Lawrence’s shot struck the arm of Luke Robinson, who had spun in the air and had his back to goal inside the box.

After consulting his pitchside monitor again, MacDermid again pointed to the spot and this time Tavernier sent it high into the other corner.

St Johnstone manager Craig Levein’s first remark in the post-match press conference was “that’s VAR 8-0 up on us now” and on the second penalty decision, the former Scotland boss said: “It’s unbelievably unfair. When you spin your arm comes out.

“I don’t know how you are supposed to keep your arm in like that when you are spinning. The referee hasn’t seen it and it’s the people in the booth that call it.

“It’s these guys in the booth making calls that are baffling at times. We didn’t lose the game just because of VAR today, but it certainly made life much more comfortable for Rangers and took some of our energy away after they were awarded a couple of goals.

“I don’t know what the best (handball) rule is to have – but could we have one that applies to everybody? That would be nice.

“Supporters come along and pay their money. They have to sit for five minutes with a feeling of dread in their stomach but everybody knows what’s going to happen.

“The referee’s going to make whatever decisions has been made in the booth. The referees aren’t really refereeing the game anymore – maybe they should just get half their money.

“It’s quite depressing sitting here every week and talking about stuff that should be helping but isn’t.”

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