By Ray Livingstone

22nd Oct, 2019 | 2:16pm

Warburton heaps praise on one Rangers star who is 'first class, year in year out'

QPR manager Mark Warburton has sprung to the defence of James Tavernier, after the Rangers skipper has been attracting criticism from fans.

The backlash from fans hit a peak after the 1-1 draw with Hearts on Sunday, with supporters blaming Tavernier for the early goal Hearts scored as well as poor distribution throughout.

He stuck a late free-kick straight into the arms of the Hearts keeper and that summed up the season he’s been having so far.

Some Rangers fans were calling for Tavernier to be dropped for the game against Porto on Thursday.

However, Warburton, talking in the Daily Record heaped praise on the player and said a “dip in form” is natural for any player.

“Let me tell you about Tav,” said Warburton. “The best way to describe Tav is ‘low maintenance’ and that’s a really big quality for any player. Just look at his availability record – he’s hardly ever injured. Even when the team is going through a really tough, intense schedule of games he’ll always want to play.

“He is never one to cause an issue in the dressing room. He speaks his mind in the right way and is a great professional. I also know from speaking to players and staff he is really well-liked. He’s just a credit to the football club in terms of how he conducts himself.

“Also, I know what playing for Rangers means to him. I know what an impact it has had on his family and how dear it is to his heart.

“His levels of consistency over the last three or four years have been excellent. All players have dips but there is no doubt about his quality and no doubt he is a fantastic asset to Rangers Football Club.

“What he adds to the Rangers side is first class, year in year out. I haven’t seen all the Rangers games this season but if it’s true that he’s going through a dip in form then it’s only natural. What I can tell you about Tav is that he’ll emerge a better player for it and he quite rightly deserves the backing of the supporters.”

Sky pundit Charlie Nicholas singled out Tavernier for criticism ahead of the Porto game, saying he was better going forward than he was defending.

That’s a fair point but it’s Tavernier’s distribution that’s been letting him down this season.

In other Rangers news, fans slate one player after 1-1 v Hearts: ‘Drop him for the next league game’