The player let go by Newcastle United who's on the cusp of making history
James Tavernier’s move to Wigan Athletic didn’t make too many headlines on Tyneside at the time.
The defender left Newcastle United in 2014 after six years – and as many loans away from the club.
Tavernier only made a handful of first-team appearances in his five years at St James’s Park. As such, his move to Wigan, for an undisclosed fee, went largely unnoticed.
However, Tavernier quickly got noticed away from Newcastle, and joined Rangers a year later along with South Shields-born team-mate Martyn Waghorn.
Tavernier hasn’t looked back. And, today, he and his Rangers team-mates are on course to end their club’s long wait for a Scottish Premiership title.
The club leads the table – Steven Gerrard’s side are 11 points ahead of Celtic – and, remarkably, Rangers, also competing in the Europa League, have conceded just three goals in 15 league games.
Just as remarkably, Tavernier, an attacking right-back, has scored 14 goals, eight of them coming from the penalty spot, in all competitions. He also has 10 assists to his name.
“We’re in a great place at the minute, and have worked extremely hard over the course of the season to get where we are,” said Tavernier, who scored in a 4-0 Betfred Cup win over Falkirk at the weekend. “There’s a long way to go but it’s so far, so good.”
Tavernier has come a long way from his days at United.
The 29-year-old – whose younger brother Marcus plays for Middlesbrough – got close to the first team at Newcastle, but not close enough.
The Bradford-born player – who started out at Leeds United – impressed in the club’s pre-season campaign in 2011, but ended up spending that season on loan at Carlisle United and MK Dons.
A phenomenal athlete, Tavernier looked physically ready for Premier League football at the time, but what he didn’t have was enough first-team experience, something he acknowledged in an interview with the Gazette in May 2013 after a season behind Mathieu Debuchy and Danny Simpson in the pecking order at United.
“It’s about getting as many games as I can,” said Tavernier. “If I do that, it’ll obviously make me a better player. I’ve got to work hard in training and become a better player, if I do that, I’ll get to where I want to be.
“You can’t really challenge for a first-team spot if you’re on the outskirts. You need a big level of experience on your shoulders. That’s what I want to get. Hopefully, that can get me into the Premier League.”
Tavernier only made four Premier League appearances for United, but his form has seen him linked with top-flight clubs south of the border. He could get that opportunity – if he wants it.
Steve Bruce, Newcastle’s head coach, found himself being asked about speculation linking the club with a move for Tavernier last year.
“Any manager will say the same, I hate people talking about my players, so I'm not going to comment on anyone else's,” said Bruce.
Tavernier, however, has really got people talking this season – and all of those years of hard work are paying off.