Rangers' Connor Goldson explains why he's never felt fitter after hitting milestone - with most important games yet to come

The Ibrox defender is fully aware of the problems Killie can pose in their next match

He might have hit the 300 appearance-mark for Rangers but Connor Goldson knows the most important games are the 11 league matches left in front of him this season as the Ibrox club aim to secure their primary ambition.

At least one additional Scottish Cup outing and European games will also help the defender along the way towards the next milestone before the campaign ends but the Premiership crown is what Rangers most crave. They posted another very persuasive statement of intent with Saturday’s 5-0 win over an equally in-form Hearts team.

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Rangers’ turnaround under Philippe Clement has been little short of astounding. This latest win made it ten on the trot. But it’s actually 17 victories in 18 with the one blip being the New Year defeat to Celtic.

Connor Goldson, right, made his 300th appearance for Rangers against Hearts.Connor Goldson, right, made his 300th appearance for Rangers against Hearts.
Connor Goldson, right, made his 300th appearance for Rangers against Hearts.

Goldson is wise to anyone seeking to trick him into making any bold proclamations. At 31, he knows Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park, Rangers’ next stop on Wednesday, can throw up all manner of problems – and has already done so.

“Listen, we had a tough game on Saturday against the third team in the league and we’ve got the fourth team in the league on Wednesday,” he said. “So we’re just going to concentrate on ourselves. I know what you want me to say but it’s not going to happen! We’ve got a massive game on Wednesday at a tough place against a team that beat us earlier in the season 1-0, a team that’s beaten Celtic at home. We know how hard it is to go there so we just need to focus on that and hopefully get another three points.”

After six years at Rangers, it’s not surprising that Goldson should come across as the wise old owl of Ibrox. Asked if he might have imagined racking up so many appearances when he joined from Brighton & Hove Albion in 2018, he answered: “Probably not. But I am here now. I am happy and I hope there are many more to come.”

The arrival of Clement might help towards that end. Goldson reckons he has never felt fitter. Is the Belgian getting more out of him? “Running-wise yes!" he said. "Running-wise it is different. It is just the way he wants us to play. He wants us to stop counter attacks. If we have got a team on the edge of the box he wants us to push all the way up to the strikers so they can’t get the ball and turn.”

That certainly did the trick against Hearts, who, save for a short spell before Rangers’ second goal from Oscar Cortes, were never really in it. Indeed, if not for visiting goalkeeper Zander Clark, who ended the game wearing the skipper's armband after Lawrence Shankland's withdrawal, it could have been worse. Nevertheless, no goalkeeper likes to lose five goals, particularly when the 74-times capped Craig Gordon is looking on from the bench.

Clark afterwards said his good saves, including one in particular from a James Tavernier screamer, were “immaterial” given the result. He might be right about that, with some Hearts fans clamouring for the return of Gordon between the sticks ahead of the clash with Hibs in midweek. It would be harsh, undoubtedly. But taking Shankland off with 12 minutes left on Saturday – the striker was not happy – underlines how manager Steven Naismith considers the collective rather than the individual and is content to risk incurring the wrath of senior players.