It took John Souttar time, well more than half a season, to overcome injury issues after arriving at Rangers in the summer of 2022 from Hearts.

Despite the continuation of unavailability around him with Philippe Clement inheriting an injury crisis at the club just like those who’ve gone before him this season, the 27-year-old has rarely been on the treatment table. Souttar is in the best place physically he's been for a long while.

For spells at his previous club, it appeared as though Souttar may never realise his clear potential purely because of availability. Now, as the Scotland international battles for a place in Clement’s team and a spot at EURO 2024, he is feeling the benefit of patience from the medical staff last season. The task now is to match availability with consistent minutes at Ibrox.

“I think in the last year I’ve been available for almost every game,” he said speaking as Rangers headed out to La Manga for their warm weather training over the winter break.

“There will be one or two I have missed but from a personal point of view it’s been really good for me. I feel good, my body feels good so it’s just about staying fit and doing everything that keeps me on the pitch.

“This time last year when I was just coming back from injury I wasn’t rushed. The medical department took their time with me and it was bang on. Probably in the past, I have rushed back from different injuries so I have them to thank for that. I have been feeling really good this past year and long may that continue.”

Rangers travel to Spain reinvigorated. Although an Old Firm defeat on the eve of the New Year stunted some momentum, Clement’s arrival has catalysed an upturn few would’ve foreseen when Aberdeen inflicted a third league defeat in eight league games last October.

With a League Cup in the bag, a Europa League last-16 tie to look forward to and title race open again there’s plenty to prepare and play for. Even if appearances have become more limited under the Belgian compared to Michael Beale’s tenure Souttar is focused on playing his part and taking chances when they arrive.

“It was good to get some time away over the winter break but everyone is now focused on getting going again,” he added.

“It feels like a long time since the start of the season because a lot has happened. But it was a positive final third to the campaign and there’s a real togetherness now in the squad and I think you will see that moving forward.

“The manager was pretty clear when he first came in. He said that he would be using everyone, rotating, with people coming in and out.

“We had so many games during that final period that everyone had to play their part. That’s the way the manager wants to work and I think it has worked. In every position now there is competition and you know that when you’re in you have to perform if you want to stay in.”

Clement was 16 games unbeaten in the job working in far from ideal circumstances until the meeting with Celtic on December 30. Danilo, Tom Lawrence, Nico Raskin and John Lundstram are just a few of the names that missed matches while others filled in. Dujon Sterling was converted into a roaming midfielder, Kieran Dowell came in from the cold and Ross McCausland was promoted from the B team to the first.

The Belgian manager needed buy-in from the squad, and quickly, to save this season. According to Souttar, that’s exactly what he’s achieved, but how?

“I think that everyone performed because everyone has bought into what the manager wants to do. People are playing out of position, other guys have been playing on with knocks and niggles,” he added.

“I think we’re all heading in the right direction, the direction he wants. When you play so many games you are going to pick up knocks and a lot of boys put themselves through the pain barrier.

“Listen, everyone is learning different things from the manager. He’s clear in what he wants and he’s brought clarity, there are no grey areas at all. Also off the park, everyone knows what he wants and how you are supposed to carry yourself.

“He’s also brought that winning mentality because it’s something he demands every day. Everyone knows what it takes to play for him. It’s about setting and maintaining those standards and that’s what it should be at Rangers. On and off the pitch there has to be standards and he definitely demands that from everyone.

“He takes a lot of training and he has his own ideas on how football should be played. It’s not just the centre-backs, everyone in every position is picking up different things from him.”

To push for a starting spot in Steve Clarke’s Scotland team this summer logic suggests more minutes must arrive between now and the end of the campaign. Unless covering for Connor Goldson, an ever-present in the team and Rangers' vice-captain, Souttar has often operated on the left side of defence when selected.

Leon Balogun has been Clement’s first pick choice to Goldson at the heart of defence lately while Ben Davies has normally slotted in for Europa League matches. Souttar, like so many others in Europe this summer, is not only vying for a successful club season but a place on the plane to Germany come June.

“Everyone is aware that the Euros are coming up in the summer. People who can be involved and people who want to be involved. But the only way you will be involved is by playing well for your club between now and then,” he added.

“First and foremost I have to perform for Rangers. After that everything will take care of itself. Hopefully, if I am performing and winning games here then I will be involved.

“We spoke about how long the season is and how things can change. It’s still six months until the Euros and anything can happen. So I have to play well for my club. have got to be on it, I have got to be fit, healthy and at the top of my game to be involved.

“My full concentration is on doing that and bringing success to Rangers. I know if I do that then subsequently I will be involved in the summer.”

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