Steven Gerrard insists he never doubted James Tavernier would be back in action in time to hoist aloft Rangers’ first title in a decade.
The Ibrox skipper was forced to watch from the sidelines as Gers cruised over the Premiership winning line last month after suffering a two-month lay-off.
But the 29-year-old made his return from the knee injury he sustained against Royal Antwerp back in February during Wednesday’s draw with St Johnstone in Perth.
And he will start again on Sunday as Rangers host the Perth men in the last eight of the Scottish Cup.
However, the big date circled in Gerrard’s diary is the May 15 clash with Aberdeen when Tavernier – the last remaining player at Ibrox to have featured in the club’s rise through the lower leagues – will finally get his hands on the title trophy Gers have been longing for.
“It is a big boost to have him back and you can tell he’s enjoying it by his smile and the way he is around the training pitch today,” said the Ibrox boss.
“He is a little bit stiff and tired from his first game in several weeks, but he come through with no issues, which is the biggest boost that I needed.
“He will obviously play again at the weekend because Nathan Patterson is obviously not available now.
“We’re all delighted to have him back. It was a tough injury for him. But I don’t think he can complain because I think it is the first one he has had!
“He has been big for us, his contribution this season has been mega and he has got a massive part to play from now until the end of the season. It’s great to have him back.
“When we found out the extent of the injury, I don’t think the Aberdeen game was ever in doubt. We’ve been patient, the medical team have done a really good job with James.
“We had a couple of setbacks within the rehab that we had to just come off him slightly. But this injury was never going to put him in doubt for the back-end games.
“Because the league was already done and dusted there was no need to push him and we could be really patient and give him the time that he needed.
“He is more than ready, the injury is fine and he has come through 60 minutes with no problems.
“He has been back in full training now for five, six days and he will just get stronger and stronger until the end of the season.
“If he wasn’t available he would obviously still go up and lift the trophy on May 15.
“The reason we are champions is that James has played such a massive part so it would only have been fair, whether he was available or not, that he was the man to go up and lift it.”
Patterson will be missing for the Saints rematch as he begins his punishment for breaching lockdown rules.
On Thursday, Rangers called for change in the Scottish Football Association disciplinary process after seeing their appeal against the suspensions handed out to five Gers players fail.
Patterson, Calvin Bassey, Bongani Zungu and loaned-out pair Brian Kinnear and Dapo Mebude must now serve immediate four-game bans.
The club hit out at the “inconsistency of decision-making in the SFA’s disciplinary process” in a statement.
And Gerrard backed that stance as he said: “Look, we found the outcome out yesterday morning. Obviously not too happy about it.
“I am obviously frustrated and disappointed that they are not available for the next four games. But we accept it, we put a statement out that I back very much in terms of the club and we move forward.”