Rangers’ Jon Flanagan: I’m right man to fill in for James Tavernier

Handed a first outing this season in his preferred right-back berth, Jon Flanagan could hardly have been heartened to hear that his manager Steven Gerrard subsequently attributed his team’s stuttering 1-0 win over St Mirren, in part, to the unavailability of the overlapping James Tavernier for the role he had occupied.
Jon Flanagan in action for Rangers against St Mirren. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNSJon Flanagan in action for Rangers against St Mirren. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS
Jon Flanagan in action for Rangers against St Mirren. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS

The appendix operation likely to sideline the Rangers captain for the next fortnight should afford Flanagan the opportunity for more outings in his favoured position, with the adaptably former Liverpool full-back previously utilised on the left side of defence.

Yet, in deputising for Tavernier, Flanagan fully appreciates there is pressure on him to ape a player who provides regular assists through from the flank.

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At Ibrox, this can be a way to unpick teams locked on to a wholly defensive approach, with three such home tests awaiting Gerrard’s title-chasing side after a trip to Hearts on Sunday.

“I’m a little bit different to James,” the 27-year-old said. “He is more attacking where I’m probably a bit more defensive.

“We knew St Mirren were going to set up in low block so the manager told me to get forward, to try and get as many crosses as possible in and be a bit more attacking.

“I do think I’m more comfortable on the right [to do that]. I will play wherever the manager tells me to play but I am right-footed and more natural down that side.

“In games like the St Mirren one, you just have to get through them and get the three points. It wasn’t pretty, as everyone knows. But it was a case of job done. We got the three points and we move onto the next one.”

Rangers remain only two points behind Premiership leaders Celtic with a game in hand, and the tension this creates proved palpable as the Paisley club remained in the game. Flanagan maintains the Rangers players cannot allow any nerves from the Ibrox stands to transmit to them. He said: “The fans are right to have their moans and groans but we just have to park that to one side and get the job done.

“It can be frustrating playing against a low block like they were set up, with ten men behind the ball and looking for a counter. But we have to be good enough to break that down and score.

“We are probably going to be faced with a lot of that in the next few months, so we just have to think of solutions to break it down.”

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Flanagan has not been suffering frustration of his own despite being limited to eight games this season and being in the closing months of the two-year deal he signed in June 2018.

He said: “It felt good to be back in the team.

“It’s not been difficult to keep myself motivated. 
Definitely not. You always have to be ready.”