JAMES Tavernier is already putting targets in place as Rangers captain after just three days of pre-season training.
The 27-year-old was on the spin bike when the Light Blues drew St Joseph’s from Gibraltar or Prishtina of Kosovo in the first qualifying round of the Europa League but he is hoping his Gers side don’t stop pedalling until the knockout stages this season.
Rangers were 90 minutes away from qualifying for the final 32 in 2018/19 and the skipper thinks they are capable of going one better this term.
Speaking to RangersTV during a break in training he said: “I was on the bike when the Europa League draw was made but I heard where we could be going once I was finished.
“I can’t wait to get started in the Europa League, we are going to have a good week in Portugal which will be tough then we come back and get right into competitive games. I can’t wait for that first game.
“Minimum we have to be qualifying for the group stage and then I want us to set a target that we can go into the knockout stages.
“I do believe you get the luck of the draw in the group stages but I believe we have a good enough team to push ourselves into the knockout stages.”
Tavernier has already been impressed by the Gers new recruits with Jake Hastie, Greg Stewart and newest signing Sheyi Ojo or training with the squad this week.
The captain also reflected on Ojo reaction to his first day when the 22-year-old claimed Rangers gave him “the best initial feeling I have had at all the clubs I have been on loan.”
“I have heard some good things about Sheyi. I heard Don Cowie who was at Wigan with him said he was a really good player so he is obviously as excited player for us to get.
“I have seen in the past couple of days how strong a runner he is and I can’t wait to see him out on the pitch properly.
“We have a great group of lads, there are no bad people in the group, we are all welcoming and we are all good lads.
“It is a compliment to the group that he has been made to feel welcome straight away and that is the atmosphere the gaffer wanted to create when he first came in.
“I have played against both Greg Stewart and Jake Hastie. I know Jake had a good spell when he broke onto the scene at Motherwell and I have seen some clips of him, he is a strong runner and has a good finish on him.
“I have played against Greg a lot of times and he has always proven to be a difficult opponent. I am really happy we have secured him.”
Tavernier spoke to RangersTV off the back of a tough morning running session and admits his first pre-season last summer until Steven Gerrard was the hardest of his career – now he’s preparing for round two.
He smiled: “I have had a really good break; I have had time to relax and recharge the batteries. I was always looking forward to coming back in and now I’m back in I can’t wait to get the games on the way.
“The first few days have been good; it feels really good to be back in. It has been a tough couple of days, it is always a shock to the system but that is what we need to be successful this year.
“We need to be pushed hard and these first couple of days are showing signs of how fit the gaffer wants the team to be.
“Last season was the toughest pre-season I have ever done and I think if you ask quite a few of the other boys they will say the same. I can this is going to be just as tough.
“We saw the benefit of it though; you have to be fit for the first Europa game so you know you have to be pushed really hard in a small amount of time.”