The Rangers career of John Souttar comes with a caveat. There is always an ‘if’ or a ‘but’ attached to any discussion about the defender.

Souttar is aware of the situation and understands it. More importantly, he knows how to change minds and alter narratives as he prepares for his second season at Ibrox.

His arrival from Hearts last summer was met with an optimism that was pegged back slightly. Supporters were aware of how good he was and how good he could be but were wary about expecting too much given the trials and tribulations that he had gone through with a succession of injuries that curtailed his career for club and country.

His debut against Livingston lasted just 67 minutes. He would not appear again until March as the fears – both his own and of those around him – were realised and he was condemned to another lengthy spell out of action.

Those closing stages of the campaign was positive, though. His first goal arrived in the win over Celtic and he returned to the Scotland setup as he came off the bench against Georgia at Hampden.

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There was a sense that the season ended at just the wrong time for Souttar. Now all he can do is focus on the future and his football as he seeks to establish himself at the heart of Michael Beale’s side and prove that he can be a robust, reliable figure in a winning Rangers team.

“I feel good and as fit as I have in a long time,” Souttar said as he prepared for the final friendly of the summer against Hoffenheim this afternoon. “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 do feel like a Rangers player now and I think 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.

“I think 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.”

The trip to Germany will see Rangers round off what has been a mixed pre-season in terms of performances and results. It is one, though, that Beale seems satisfied with as he assesses the preparations for a campaign that is now looming large.

Defeats at home to Newcastle United and Olympiacos have come either side of the win over Hamburg and a positive showing against Bundesliga opposition would be a welcome way for Rangers to end their summer schedule. After that, all eyes will be fixed on Rugby Park.

“Pre-season has been tough for us but the start of the season is when it really matters,” Souttar said.

The Herald: Rangers defender John Souttar

“I know every game matters at Rangers but when there’s points to put on the board and Champions League qualification at stake, that’s when we need to be at it - and I’m sure we will be.

“At other clubs, you might get away with a slow start but it doesn’t work like that at Rangers. You need to be at it from off and everyone will be.

“As soon as the new boys play at Ibrox, they realise straight away what the demands are.

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“If they’re not from this country, it won’t take them long to pick up on it because it’s quite clear within the building in terms of the messages the manager gives you.”

The main message will, of course, be the need to win. On the back of another unsuccessful season and another Celtic clean sweep, the price of failure will be considerable for Rangers this term.

Beale has been backed by the Ibrox hierarchy in terms of the transfer market and a host of new recruits have come on board to give the squad a new look and a fresh impetus. The old demand never changes at Ibrox.

“Even though we’ve brought in a lot of new players, we know we have to win this season,” Souttar said. “The boys who have come in have to hit the ground running, which I’m sure they will do.

“It would be massive for me to win medals and trophies this season. That’s why I joined this club. It would be huge for me personally to achieve that.

“Of course, getting to the Euros with Scotland next summer is a target of mine but first of all I need to concentrate on Rangers - that’s all I’m focusing on.

“Hopefully I can get a good season under my belt, continue to improve and the rest will take care of itself.”

The importance of this season, both individually and collectively, cannot be understated or underestimated at Ibrox and Souttar is now primed to play his part domestically and on the continent.

The Beale blueprint places emphasis on the centre-backs being able to play out and be comfortable on the ball. In that regard, Souttar seems the perfect fit for the role.

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A settled partnership will not be formed until Connor Goldson has returned from injury and taken his spot but Rangers are already building from the back after appointing Jack Butland as number one this summer.

“Every team wants their best players on the pitch and Connor is one of our best players,” Souttar said. “He’s also a top man. On the pitch and off it, he’s massive for us. With the experience he’s got, that can only benefit any team.

“We’ve got a good group of boys here and there’s strong competition for every place now. But in the few games I’ve played with Connor, I’ve really enjoyed the partnership.

“We’ve also got Jack behind us now which is encouraging. It’s difficult to judge any of the new boys yet and Jack has big shoes to feel after Greegsy, a club legend. But I’m sure Jack will do well for us.”