Rangers manager Steven Gerrard explains decision to drop skipper James Tavernier for Nathan Patterson ahead of top-of-the-table clash against Hibs

The Ibrox boss expressed the need to have two players of significant quality for every position

Steven Gerrard made the bold decision to drop Rangers captain James Tavernier for their top-of-the-table Scottish Premiership clash against Hibs for Nathan Patterson.

When called up this season, the youngster has stepped up to the plate and his performance at Ibrox on Sunday was perhaps one of his strongest to date.

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He delivered an outstanding cross for Kemar Roofe to head in the equaliser before the Light Blues completed the turnaround through Alfredo Morelos.

Patterson, who was called up to Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad for just a third time in his fledgling career, will join up with his international team-mates this week ahead of the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.

The 19-year-old has undoubtedly given Clarke a major selection headache over who to start at right-back against Israel on Saturday, with Stephen O’Donnell also vying for the position.

One thing is for sure, Rangers manager Gerrard has an incredibly exciting prospect on his hands the his squad depth is particularly noticeable.

Asked whether the decision to drop Tavernier was a tough decision to make, Gerrard replied: “It was a difficult one and I think it would have surprised an awful lot of people.

“Tav is capable of playing 55 or 60 games a season because he’s a machine and very robust, but he had an injury towards the end of last season.

“As a manager and a coaching staff we feel we’ve over-used James during the last three and a half years.

“We’ve had back-ups to come in and try to offload him, but we haven’t had the quality of Nathan Patterson as a back-up who’s a Scottish international.

“We’ve got just as much trust in James as we have in Nathan. To be honest, we want less games out of James, but more quality.

“I believe that will help him career-wise and it will certainly help the group.

“The players and supporters have to trust us in terms of our decisions and hopefully they pay dividends at the end of the season.

“Sometimes we’re making changes, but we want to find that settled team and the right balance.

“We also realise there are a lot of games over the course of the season, and we want to keep players fresh and healthy.

“We’ve tried to find two good players for each position, but we can’t stand still. We need to keep improving as a squad.”

Despite their poor start to the Europa League group stages, the champions remain at the top of the Scottish Premiership table ahead of a two-week domestic break.

Gerrard believes there is still significant room for improvement from his side.

He added: “It’s still early days but we’re in a good place and in control of where we want to be. There’s still loads to do, and we can tweak things and improve.

“We have to think it’s a positive place to be in considering that we haven’t gone into our top gear or found that spark that a lot of people keep mentioning.

“I appreciate that and understand it, but we’ve had to deal with a lot of different things like injuries, suspensions, Covid-issues.

“The curve balls have been coming at us from all angles, but you’ve got to adapt and try to deal with that.

“As a squad we are doing that. We can still get better and that’s a huge positive from my point of view.”