There is a strange disconnect between Connor Goldson and a certain section of the Rangers support. The petals have been showered in the direction of Borna Barisic, Leon Balogun and even Jon McLaughlin over the Ibrox club’s faultless domestic start that has snared them three Premiership victories without the concession of a goal. Incredibly, it is an opening that, should it be extended in the same fashion at Livingston today, would see them begin a top-flight league campaign with four clean sheets for the first time since 1949.
The big English centre-back, in contrast, seems only to be talked about when the topics are thorny topics. He did have some costly slips last season – making mistakes that were instrumental in the surrendering of a two-goal lead at Pittodrie and losses at Kilmarnock and at home to Hamilton. Yet, across his 109 appearances since his £3 million move from Brighton two summers ago, the stand-up character has had countless more certain moments, than uncertain ones.
Indeed, as much as any Ibrox performer, he has been central to the promising early results – which will give Rangers the chance to move eight points ahead of an inactive Celtic in this championship for the ages.
He just never seems in the frame for fans’ commendations. His manager Steven Gerrard, though, is an entirely different case on that front. “I don’t think Connor gets the credit he deserves and that’s not just this season, that’s looking at the big picture,” said the former England captain, pictured inset, whose trust in the player is evidenced in the fact that he made him his first statement signing following his arrival.
“He’s been robust, he’s always available and has rarely missed a training session. He’s in fantastic shape, he’s a leader and so professional. He’s made a couple of individual errors that I think people hold him to. But he’s so important to this team. I can’t express how important he is to us. He’s been consistent during the pre-season. But because Leon has come in with strong performances, Connor’s have gone under the radar. But only with other people, not with me.
“He’s a vital member of this squad. He’s in my leadership group and I see him as a captain. We’ve got big trust in him. I don’t know why he doesn’t get the credit he deserves but that’s only on the outside. His team-mates value him a lot, as do the staff and the club. That’s the only thing that really matters in terms of Connor’s thinking. We’re right behind him and we know he’s done a fantastic job for us.”
A 71-year league shut-out record is a significant prize for Goldson and company to strive for this afternoon, but Gerrard isn’t blinded to the fact that his side must continue to step-up their defensive solidity.
“We’ve focused on our organisation, our distances, our aggression out of possession,” the 39-year-old said.
“But the players have done the work; they listen, we do unit meetings, we do individual meetings. In terms of the staff and myself we’ve put a lot of time and effort into this organisation and we’re getting the rewards for it at the moment.
“But it’s still early days. We’ve got a lot of hard work to do defensively to try to improve. There are still bits we can polish up on.
“The other night we still gave away a couple of decent chances away in terms of St Johnstone. So it’s a work in progress but I think, in terms of pre-season and the games so far, we’ve been rewarded with all the hard work that’s gone into it with the defensive shape. Having a longer pre-season certainly helped in terms of our organisation. If you look at us over two years, it’s been very rare to have training days where you can work on tactics, in and out of possession.
“Off the top of my head, we’ve probably only had between 20 and 30 days to really work on our shape because we were either on a recovery day or game day minus one where it has to be light.
“So the time has been really valuable to work on our distances, where we need to be defensively and different scenarios within games. So we’ve really enjoyed that work we’ve given them.”
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