THE journey from the Conference League to the Champions League has shaped Ben Davies as a player and a person. It is a testament to his character as much as his quality.

Ten years ago this week, Davies made his debut for Preston North End, aged just 17, in a 2-2 draw with Coventry City. The future seemed destined to be bright for the defender, but steps back had to be taken before he could stride forward and reach the level he is at today.

A loan spell at York City, which included a run to the League Two play-offs, helped Davies establish himself in a first team environment. Before he made his mark at Deepdale, he had to put in the hard yards at Tranmere Rovers, Southport, Newport County and Fleetwood Town as the lower leagues acted as his proving ground.

Experience was gained as a reputation was built and Davies was clearly capable of operating at a higher level. The jump was unexpected and ultimately proved beyond him but a move to Liverpool two years served to whet the appetite as the stopper gained an insight into working with some of the best in the game.

The dream of playing against the biggest names didn't materialise at Anfield, though. Davies never made an appearance for Jurgen Klopp's side as the stop-gap that was ultimately not needed had to drop back to the Championship to kick-start his career.

Once again, his move proved beneficial. The subsequent chance to sign for Rangers was one that Davies couldn't turn down and the difficult moments in a frustrating campaign now act as an inspiration for the 27-year-old as he seeks to prove himself in another new environment.

"I’ve spent time in the Conference, League Two, League One, Championship – and then at Liverpool," Davies said. "It’s just been gathering that experience all the time.

"When I was younger, that’s why I wanted go out and get that life experience and playing experience of different leagues. Every single bit of it helps you going forward when you get a bit older.

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"I sat on the bench for Liverpool in the Champions League and didn’t get on. I felt that might have been a missed opportunity to not play in it.

"To come here this year and manage to get minutes in it was a big thing for me. The opportunities this club brings is brilliant.

"That opportunity is there [to make amends for this season]. We’ve got experience from last time, when it obviously didn’t work out how we wanted it to. To get back there, I think we are capable of putting in a better show."

There would have been moments while running out at the likes of Prenton Park or Rodney Parade that the prospect of playing in front of crowds of 50,000, competing in Europe and challenging for silverware would have felt like a different world for Davies. He has, though, come a long way in a relatively short time.

His stint at Liverpool saw him recognised more as a public figure but he admits 'you just see people looking at you a little bit different' south of the border. In Glasgow, the punters have the personal touch and the Englishman is happy to converse with a support who have, for one reason or the other, yet to see the best of him.

Life at Rangers is unique and it can be daunting for those who walk into the Old Firm environment. Nothing could have fully prepared Davies for his £3million switch from Anfield but he is no wet behind the ears kid who doesn't know the tougher side of the game.

"There are all sorts," Davies said when asked about his recollections of his time in the lower reaches of the English game. "Obviously, the facilities, the pitches and the types of players you play against are all different.

"You kind of learn from an early age what these types of players do, their movements, and how to play against them, really. Getting that in as early as possible helps you because you always take it with you.

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"I went to League Two and played 45 games for York City and got to the play-offs. Then I went to League Two again with Tranmere for a month and the manager got sacked and I got sent back.

"Then it was the Conference for a month. I thought: 'Oh no, I’m dropping down after League Two'. But I went and did it anyway.

"Then it was another League Two, a League One and then I got in Preston’s team. It’s about keeping going, believing, and trusting this is the right path to go on."

The journey that Davies is now on will be travelled with Michael Beale leading the way following his appointment as Giovanni van Bronckhorst's successor as manager. In all likelihood, it will be Connor Goldson that will be beside him more often than not.

The partnership between the compatriots remains in its infancy despite Rangers now being nearly 40 matches into a campaign of highs and lows. It has been mixed for the collective, but some individuals have had more trials and tribulations to go through than others.

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Davies falls into that category. He has been limited to just 22 appearances so far but the handful of those with Goldson joining him at the heart of the defence have showed why Beale was as eager to have them both fit and available as soon as possible.

"When Connor’s playing, it makes it easier," Davies said. "He’s just a leader, isn’t he?

"Because I’m about 6ft1in, throughout my career I always find it easier when there’s a bigger centre-half next to me. They can be more dominant and I can go around and mop up.

"It’s always been that way and that’s probably when I’ve done my best, when the other defender has been the dominant one. I think suits my game.

"In that regard, it’s not just Connor [that knows Rangers] but the back four in general.

"Coming in, I just wanted to fit nicely into that and get partnerships going to help the team going forward. Now I can play every week, I feel a lot more comfortable."

A clean sheet in the Scottish Cup victory over St Johnstone at the weekend was a welcome improvement for a side that have shown signs of defensive weakness both before and after Beale's return to Ibrox last month. As an eighth win in nine matches was secured, a fourth shutout was achieved.

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Beale has spoken positively about the partnership between Davies and Goldson and the understanding will be integral to whatever Rangers hope to achieve in the second half of the campaign. Going forward in the longer term, it could be the foundation upon which Beale's side are built.

The pairing shows signs of improvement in every outing. On a daily basis at Auchenhowie, the relationship at the heart of their union grows stronger and stronger.

"Me and Connor get on well off the pitch," Davies said. "We don’t go out together and do things like that. But round about the training ground we get on well.

"It’s just about building that friendship off the pitch and the partnership on it. The on-the-pitch is more important but to have that relationship helps.

"There are lots of personalities here and I think Connor’s a big personality. There are a lot of others as well. Definitely on the pitch I think you can see he’s a leader and that helps.

"I think we’re different but we kind of had the same football upbringing until Connor came up here a bit earlier.

"That English experience of the leagues, we bring that and kind of know what each other is going do from that."