John Souttar admits Rangers fitness questions are valid and insists there’s only one way to answer them

There’s always a caveat with John Souttar.

He could be playing out of his skin for Rangers and Scotland but still, there would be that niggling doubt. Can he stay fit? That’s always the question when his name is mentioned and the Ibrox fans are guilty of it now. Despite being pretty much injury free for the past five months, they can’t help themselves. Most of them rate Souttar highly. They see him and Connor Goldson as Gers’ strongest central defensive partnership. But he knows there will always be question marks. And he gets it. After snapping his achilles tendon THREE times at Hearts before getting to Govan, it’s incredible that he’s even at this level.

Then last season, his Rangers career stalled after just one game –the opening day at Livingston – before he spent more time on
the sidelines. He’s now back, fully fit, and gearing up for arguably the biggest season of his life. But he doesn’t blame punters for asking whether he can stand up to the rigours of a potential 50-game campaign.

Because Souttar says he’s still proving to himself that he can get through it. As he prepared for today’s final pre-season friendly against Hoffenheim in Germany, the 26-year-old said: “It’s natural for fans to question if I can stay fit because I was injured last year. That’s just a fact, so I understand it. It’s something that I have to accept and do my best to prove wrong.

“The more games I play, the less they’ll feel like that. That’s why it’s my aim to play as many games as I can this season. It’s not even so much about proving other people wrong – I have to prove to myself. Since I came back from injury, that’s all I’ve wanted to do – to stay injury free and bring as much success as possible to this club.

“I feel good and as fit as I have in a long time. I’ve had a good pre-season and I feel sharp. It’s a big season for me personally because obviously last year didn’t go the way I wanted it to. But that just makes this season all the more important. It’s definitely a big campaign for me. I feel like a Rangers player now and that just comes from playing games. I feel comfortable within the group now, comfortable playing in this team and I’m ready to show people what I can do.”

Souttar is approaching what should be the peak years of his career at Ibrox. But there’s been one thing missing so far – a winner’s medal. He’s been involved in three finals so far at Hearts and Dundee United and ended up on the losing side. The defender knows it’s a run that has to end at Ibrox this term, with Michael Beale’s side under pressure to get their hands on silverware.

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