THE steps on the road to recovery have been small and the progress has been slow. On Saturday, John Souttar took his most important stride of all.

When Souttar hobbled off during the win over Livingston on the opening day of the Premiership campaign, he would have hoped for the best but potentially feared the worst. He has, after all, endured his fair share of troubled times in recent seasons.

It was to turn out to be the start of another prolonged period out of action. More than seven months later, he finally made his first appearance at Ibrox as a Rangers player in the closing stages of the victory against Kilmarnock.

Souttar was sharing a pitch with those he has shared a dressing room with for some time. Some, like Scotland team-mate Ryan Jack, know all too well just what the defender has been through of late.

“Yeah there’s no doubt it’s a hard road, I’ve been there myself," Jack said. "But Saturday would have been worth it for John.

“Yeah he only came on late as a sub for a few minutes but to be out there and back in the match day squad, that’s obviously what you go through all that hard work behind the scenes in the gym for, for moments like that.

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"John’s the type who never complains, he’s in the changing room every day and he’s upbeat, working hard around the boys.

“It’s a credit to him that he’s got himself back and he’s now in the squad. I’m sure he’ll add to us going forward.

“There are always points when your team-mates go through hard times and it’s our job to pick them up and help them through it.

“I think everyone has been there for John and it’s great to now see him back."

The signing of Souttar was always going to be a gamble for Rangers. It seemed like one worth taking in the summer but quickly backfired and his injury woes, added to the plethora of problems across the squad, have summed up a wretched campaign at Ibrox.

Boss Michael Beale spoke warmly about Souttar post-match after being able to give him a long-awaited appearance. It must now be the first of many for the stopper.

“We’re obviously delighted for him," Jack said. “He’s been training hard the last few weeks. He’s been out a while so it does take time to get back into the match day squad.

“He’s been training superbly and it was great to see him out there on Saturday. It can be a long journey at times, a long road.

“But John has always been in the training centre, around the squad working hard, that’s all you can really do. I’ve said that myself when I’ve had my own injuries.

“You just have to work hard, get year head down and make sure you come back fit and strong. John’s done just that.

“When John is fully fit he’s a top player. You’ve seen in the past what he can bring playing on the international stage at the highest level.

“For us, he’ll be a great addition back in the squad and going forward I’m sure he’ll add to us and bring that quality and presence at the back."

There have been times this term when Rangers have been left with no fit centre-backs and been forced to use midfield pegs in defensive holes at home and abroad.

The return of Souttar gives Beale a valuable option. The partnership of Connor Goldson and Ben Davies has flourished but it will now finally be challenged.

Jack said: “I don’t really think he’ll have a point to prove, I just think he’ll be glad to be back fit and in the squad.

“As soon as he came through the door in pre-season we all saw the quality he has and the presence he can bring.

“With John now fit and Connor and Ben too, we’ve got great options at the back which will only add to our quality going forward."