JAMES Tavernier says he has the full backing of his manager as the captain vowed to rise above any criticism levelled at him.

The Rangers skipper missed a penalty in last weekend’s win over Motherwell and was asked by the media ahead of Sunday Betfred Cup semi-final how he was handling opinion.

The defender, who turned 28 on Thursday, told reporters he and Gerrard had held private talks before the squad headed for the Highlands, where the Gers dispatched Ross County comfortably to stay just one goal on goal difference off the top of the Premiership.

He said: “It doesn’t really unsettle me, it is part of the game and you will have ups and downs. I believe in myself and the character that I am to bounce back if my form does dip.

“I have been good in myself, I have had a good quiet chat with the gaffer and I have got his and the staff’s backing and I know all the players are right behind me.

“The gaffer being a former player he has been in the same shoes so I won’t go into too much detail but he really gave me his backing.

“He said how did I want to come out of it, there are obviously two ways that you come out of it, you can either rise above it or let yourself sink into it.

“Having his backing takes some weight off your shoulders, you have the full backing of the staff and you don’t have to worry about too much, you can just go out there and express yourself.

“It was a great showing last night with the fans singing my name. You only use it as motivation to work harder and perform better.

“We know our fans are very passionate and we have set the bar and the standard this season. There is a level of performance that they want to see and if you deliver anything below that then you are going to get called out.”

Rangers now face managerless Hearts in this weekend’s Betfred Cup semi-final and Tavernier reacted live to the news as Craig Levein was relieved of his duties in the middle of the right-back’s media duties at Hampden Park.

He said:

“It doesn’t really affect us too much; you can get teams who respond really well to people being sacked.

“It is never great news when someone loses their job but we know it is going to be a tough game regardless.

“They gave us a really tough game at Tynecastle but if we deliver the same performance as we did last night (Ross County) then we will have a really good footing in the game.

“They have the same players so we will just focus on ourselves. We’ll try to see what they are going to do but if we deliver the game plan that the gaffer gives us then we should have a result this weekend.

“As a player you just want to win the next game so I wouldn’t think anything would change in their minds, they are one game away from a final and they will have that in the back of their heads.”

Tavernier has reached just one final since arriving at Rangers in the summer of 2015. In his first season Hibernian beat the Light Blues to the Scottish Cup.

He continued: “I think silverware is vital, all the lads signed for this club to win trophies and we haven’t won one for a long time. The fans are desperate for a trophy and the boys are too, we are all hungry to succeed.

“We hope it is getting closer; this is the best squad I have had and played with since I have been here.

“I believe we’re doing better, even in the league we are doing better so we just want to book ourselves into the final this weekend and see.”

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