Rangers captain James Tavernier revealed the backing of Steven Gerrard during recent fans’ criticism had lifted a weight from his shoulders.

The 28-year-old right-back had come in for some stick for recent performances and it heightened when he missed another penalty in the 2-1 Ladbrokes Premiership win over Motherwell at Ibrox on Sunday, his third from five attempts this season.

Gerrard called for the Rangers supporters to get behind their skipper which they did with gusto in the 4-0 win over Ross County in Dingwall on Wednesday night.

Tavernier was speaking at a Betfred Cup media conference at Hampden Park ahead of the semi-final against Hearts on Sunday and he was coy about whether or not he was still on penalty duties.

He said: “We will have to see if one comes in the next game. But yes, I am definitely confident to take another penalty.”

However, he was clearer about what the support of his manager meant to him.

“I had a quiet chat with the gaffer,” said the former Wigan player.

“He has my back and so do the staff and all the players are right behind me. It takes a bit of a weight off your shoulders.

“You know you have the full backing of the staff, you don’t have to worry too much. You can just go out there and express yourself.

“It is a great showing by the fans last night singing my name so it was good. It’s part of the game, you will have ups and downs.

“I believe in myself and the character I am to bounce back if I do dip in form. I will use it to motivate me even more to work harder and perform better.

“I totally agree with what’s been said but I am strong enough to come back.”

On the penalty issue, which has been the focus of debate among the Rangers supporters, he said: “I still believe in my ability. I believe in myself and I believe in my quality and I’m always confident to step up.”

While Tavernier was speaking to the media it was confirmed that Craig Levein had been sacked as Hearts manager.

The Gorgie club announced Levein would not return to his previous position as director of football and had stepped down from the club’s board, although he will stay on in a lesser role until the end of the season.

Tavernier, however, insists that decision will have little bearing on Sunday’s game.

He said: “They have the same players. As a player you just want to win the next games so I wouldn’t have thought anything would change in their minds.

“They are one game away from a final so they will have that in the back of their minds so we will have to wait and see.

“It doesn’t really affect us too much. You can get teams that respond really well from people being sacked.

“It’s obviously not great news but we know it is going to be a tough game this weekend.

“They put in a tough game against us at Tynecastle (1-1 draw) but if we deliver the same performance as we did last night we will have a really good foothold in the game.”