James Tavernier appears to have gotten injured during training, what does this mean for Rangers’ Europa League first leg encounter in Antwerp?
Injury updates, in pre-match press conferences, are one of the most essentially boring aspects of football, right alongside having to suffer through Martin Tyler commentary. Rarely, if ever, do you learn anything new. A player is either still injured or is in training, a fact that will already be well known as most, if not all, clubs fill the midweek days posting pictures of their training sessions to save the media the effort.
There is, however, one little caveat – when a player gets injured during training. This one tends to raise a good bit of ire among the fanbase, for good reason too. Rather than going out in a blaze of glory against some bunch of cloggers who are unable to cope with the superior talent, said player has been doing a couple of sprints and twisted something. There’s nobody to blame but himself and that’s annoying.
After we at Inside Ibrox drew a line under the latest Covidiot media circus yesterday, eyes were turning to tomorrow’s return of the Europa League against Royal Antwerp – a contest in which, it must be admitted, Rangers looked hot favorites. That title may have been given prematurely, as the latest injury update provided something of a shock, as quoted by the Scottish Sun;
"“RANGERS are sweating over the fitness of James Tavernier ahead of tomorrow’s Europa League clash with Royal Antwerp.The Gers captain is a shock injury doubt for the Belgium showdown after picking up a knock in training yesterday.Tavernier – a virtual ever present for Steven Gerrard – faces a race against time to be fit for the last 32 meeting.Midfielder Ryan Jack is believed to be on standby to replace him as emergency right-back.”"
Of all the players to get injured hours before such an important contest, Tav tops the list of least likely you’d have thought. Yet here we are.
If the rumour is to be believed, and doubtless it’s the first non-COVID question Steven Gerrard will field today, the “knock” (a catch-all for any self-inflicted injury) would see James miss the contest tomorrow and leave Rangers looking to Ryan Jack, eek, as a replacement at right back. How did things get so suddenly bad?
Keep in mind that this development is not so divorced from the news we had hoped not to talk about again regarding the morons who flouted Coronavirus restrictions. Nathan Patterson fills the spot on our squad depth, but it’s seeming increasingly likely that he was one of the gang involved and thus isn’t likely to feature in a light blue shirt, possibly ever again.
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Ultimately the reality is that Tavernier has been so absolutely solid and unassailable that few, if any, considered it a risk to have such little cover there. He’s the first name on the team sheet, obviously as the skipper, but he’s almost never actually missing games for any reason, injury or otherwise. Consider that, since he signed for Rangers in 2015, he’s missed exactly 2 games through injury, both landing in one single week. He’s not called Captain Reliable for nothing.
Of course it could all just be precautionary, or unexpected Gerrard mind games, or the like. We won’t know for sure until the team sheet is released one hour before kickoff tomorrow. Further, if Tav is out following this “knock”, it constitutes a blow but it doesn’t do enough to swing the pendulum in favor of Antwerp. Having a midfielder at right back is definitely not preferable and you can be sure the Belgians will be targeting that side especially, but if Rangers are on form then they have the quality elsewhere to come away the happier side.
In any case, we’ll wait to hear what Gerrard has to say today in his pre-match press conference. I suspect it will be one of the first times since joining Rangers he’ll be glad to get to the injury update questions. Same for us.