JOHN SOUTTAR has proven his character throughout his career. Now he will show his quality at Ibrox.

His debut in the Old Firm fixture didn't exactly go to plan last week. In truth, the same can be said about his first season as a Rangers player. As he fought back to fitness and recovered from another lengthy injury lay-off, he had to come to terms with the tragic loss of his brother, Aaron.

Souttar has emerged stronger from all of his trials and tribulations and he can once again focus on his football as the end of his first campaign in blue draws to a close. In time, supporters will see the best of the 26-year-old.

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Souttar only discovered last Friday that he would be playing at Parkhead after Connor Goldson was a late injury absentee. With just four run-outs to his credit since the opening day win over Livingston, the preparation was hardly perfect and he returned home with feelings of what might have been.

The one moment that would have been playing over and over in his head was the decisive one of the day. A slack pass knocked back towards Allan McGregor was intercepted by Jota and when the winger extended Celtic's advantage, there was no way back for Michael Beale's side.

It was a defeat that ended any lingering hopes of a Premiership title win this term. It was an occasion that Souttar, in typical fashion, will learn from and improve from as he prepares to deputise for Goldson once again in the upcoming fixtures with St Mirren and Aberdeen.

“Going into the game I thought this was why I signed for Rangers, to play in these big games, Old Firm derbies and in Europe," Souttar said. "It was brilliant to be involved in that atmosphere. As a team I thought we did well in parts of the game.

“But obviously two mistakes cost us. My mistake for the third goal was poor. It’s one of those things, everyone has them in football don’t they?

"A slack pass or something else going wrong. But it’s how you react. You can’t let it affect you as it’ll happen to everyone. You just need to bounce back and react well."

Captain Tavernier rated Souttar's showing as 'really good' in the aftermath of the Old Firm fixture and recent days have given the stopper a chance to reflect on his first taste of the derby.

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There have been times this term where Souttar has been almost forgotten by supporters, others where he has been written off. Yet he is now fit and ready to play his part and stake his claim.

The mistake against Celtic was the first high-profile one of his Rangers career. It is not one that will define him, though, as he brushes himself down and gets ready to go again under Beale's guidance.

"Overall I think the game went okay," Souttar said. "It was just a couple of mistakes defensively from us that let them in, two cheap goals we conceded.

The Herald: John Souttar

"I held my hands up and said it was my fault. It was pretty obvious to hold my hands up and say that as it was.

"I have to take it as that was my responsibility. I just need to react now and hopefully I’ll get the chance to do that.

"Every footballer goes through something similar, a mistake or an injury or anything. And it’s all about how you react in football isn’t it? How you move on from the bad moments.

"Anyone can go and play a good game. It’s easy.

"It’s the moments where you’ve made a mistake or something’s gone not quite right where you’re judged and people see how mentally strong you are. It’s up to me to react at the weekend and go and put in a good performance.”

As difficult as the derby defeat was, Souttar had to take a personal positive away from Parkhead. He had, after all, played just 18 minutes of football in the matches with Kilmarnock, Motherwell and Dundee United and got 24 minutes under his belt against Raith Rovers.

The Herald: John Souttar

A stress fracture of his ankle that was felt before and during the win at Livingston in August was not diagnosed until after it. By then, the damage was done and it was already too late for Souttar.

He had arrived at Ibrox with the ambition of establishing himself as a Rangers player. Through the most challenging days of his recovery, it was that goal that kept him moving forward.

“It’s been a tough time," Souttar said. "The start to my Rangers career hasn’t been how I’d envisioned it when I signed. It’s just one of those things. But I’m back now and feeling good.

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“I think it does help you to an extent [that I have been through this before]. Because you’ve been there before you know what it’s like to come back.

"But I think it was more difficult this time as you’ve just signed for Rangers and want to impress and prove to yourself and everyone else that you’re good enough to be here. It was frustrating but now I’m back and I just want to do all that I can to stay in the team.”

With Goldson ruled out of action until at least the Old Firm semi-final in a fortnight, Souttar now has matches at Ibrox and Pittodrie to look forward to and to make the most of.

He has all the traits that Beale seems to look for in a centre-half and will surely have a part to play next term on either side of the pairing or in a back three. His focus is more immediate than that, though.

“This is my first real opportunity that I’ve had to be in the team," Souttar said. "It’s up to me now to go and take it and go and impress. I feel really good now and have been back training for the last month or two.

"In the past with other injuries I would be straight back into the Hearts team. Being here it’s a bit different.

"There are people in front of me doing well. That gave me time to build up properly and now I’m back in and feeling really good physically.

“When you’ve just signed for Rangers and only made your second start last week, you’ll play wherever the manager asks you to play. I just want to help the club so I’ll play left, right or wherever.”