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Gerrard outlines Rangers’ options to cover Tavernier injury

The Rangers manager expects to be without his captain for at least a few weeks.

Gerrard outlines Rangers’ options to cover Tavernier injury SNS Group

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard has said he has options to cover for James Tavernier’s absence if the defender is ruled out for the long term.

The Ibrox side were 4-3 winners against Royal Antwerp in the first leg of their Europa League last 32 tie in Belgium on Thursday, but victory came at a cost with Tavernier and striker Kemar Roofe forced off through injury.

Roofe appears to have suffered a recurrence of a calf injury while Tavernier limped off with a knee issue.

“There will be MRI scans set up either later today or tomorrow morning so by the time we meet again at Ibrox I should have more information and a better update,” Gerrard said.

“Everyone else has come through the game and ready for the weekend, and we’ve obviously got Jermain Defoe to add to that which softens the Kemar blow a little bit.

“We’ll see what the scan shows in terms of what James will miss, he’ll obviously miss the next few games for sure.”

Leon Balogun replaced Tavernier on Thursday evening and though he is primarily a central defender, Gerrard said that he would be well placed to fill in. The Rangers boss also said midfielders could be deployed at full-back if needed.

“I would have no issues or insecurity about playing Leon there,” Gerrard said. “When we recruited him we were aware that he could play centre back or right back. He did that in his days in Germany.

“He’s an experienced player who knows the game and knows how we play.

“We’ve also got Ryan Jack who has played there previously as well. We want to keep Jacko where he is and don’t want to put him back to right back, same with Glen Kamara and Scott Arfield, so we have got options in there but they’re not ideal options with the midfield lads.”

Gerrard said Balogun was the likely replacement but hinted at a signing if the situation was long term. SPFL rules on emergency loans appear to be restricted to goalkeepers only, meaning Rangers would be looking at free agents if they wanted to bring in a right back.

“Leon’s probably more ready for it,” Gerrard said. “He’s got the physical capabilities to adapt to playing there.

“At the same time, we may look outside. We just have to wait to see the news on James’ injury and we might have to look for an emergency situation there.

“But at the moment I’m happy to go with Leon.”

Gerrard also reflected on the win in Belgium, which saw him equal Walter Smith’s record of 23 victories in Europe, and surpassing Dick Advocaat’s tally. Having said previously that he shouldn’t be compared to either, he played down the achievement but spoke warmly about Smith’s help for him since he took over at Ibrox.

“First and foremost, I’ve got nothing but respect for Walter Smith and Dick Advocaat and the other managers who have gone before me here,” he said.

“What I meant was that I don’t deserve to be spoken about in the same breath as those managers because they have been successful Rangers managers and I haven’t.

“We’re really proud of our record in Europe, as a group of staff, and we’re proud of the team and what they’ve given.

“We want to go and finish this job off next week and match what we did last year and then see what the draw brings to hopefully go a step further than we did last year.

“It’s always about trying to raise the level, raise the bar and keep pressing ourselves from a European point of view.

“But when people talk about history and breaking records and stuff it doesn’t really interest me, although I’ve got nothing but major respect for Walter Smith.

“He’s been fantastic for me. He’s been a sort of unofficial mentor, if you like. Any time I want to speak to him, and he’s been in to see me a couple of times further back before the lockdown came, I know he’s at the end of a phone and that experience for me is crucial.”