THERE are a number of reasons why Connor Goldson will reach the 300 game milestone for Rangers when he plays against Hearts today.

For a start, the centre half, who joined from Brighton in a £3.5m transfer back in 2018, is an excellent footballer who performs to a very high level for the Ibrox club on a consistent basis at home and abroad.

The 31-year-old, too, rarely gets injured due to his total dedication to his profession.

But could the fear which the English defender strikes into his managers be a significant factor in him racking up so many appearances for the Glasgow giants as well?

Steven Gerrard, the manager who bought Goldson, used to joke that he was afraid to leave his countryman out of his starting line-up when he was in charge in Govan because he was worried about his reaction to being benched. His successor Philippe Clement can appreciate exactly why. 

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“He hasn’t played every single week,” said Clement at Auchenhowie yesterday as he looked ahead to the cinch Premiership match against their third-placed opponents at home this afternoon.

“There was one moment when I took him out also to give him a breather. He wasn’t overly happy with that, but that’s not a problem. He respected that, he knew it was best for him and afterwards he said, ‘Okay, yes, I feel the difference’.

The Herald: “No, he is a smart, intelligent guy who has the ambition to play every minute. I want 30 players like that – I want every player whose ambition is to play every minute. That is what you need to become a really good side.”

Clement, whose men moved to the top of the Premiership for the first time in two years when they beat St Johnstone 3-0 at McDiarmid Park in Perth on Sunday, knows that Rangers need Goldson to be a good team as well. 

The Belgian feels his vice-captain’s commitment to the new league leaders’ cause is every bit as crucial as his ability and athleticism.

“He is very important,” he said. “He is very influential together with a few other guys, with Lunny (John Lundstram), with Tav (James Tavernier), with Jack (Butland).

“If you are somewhere for 300 games, the club becomes part of your life. This club is not a club any more it is more like a family and that is what you feel with Connor. He is really, really into this club, into everything, into every detail.

“He is helping the young lads also in a really good way, to show them what the standards are to be a Rangers player. I am really happy about his performances on and off the pitch.”

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Rangers have enjoyed a sharp upturn in fortunes since Clement replaced Michael Beale at Ibrox back in October – they have lifted the Viaplay Cup, topped their Europa League group and leapfrogged Celtic into top spot in the Premiership.

The former Waasland-Beveren, Genk, Club Brugge and Monaco manager feels the presence of experienced professionals like Goldson in the squad he inherited has enabled him to get his message across quickly.

“I don’t want to create a relationship with only the leaders,” he said. “I want a relationship with every player in the building, that’s the only way to make everybody better.

“But it’s because of them that the story was much faster into the team, because everybody had to follow these standards. Connor, Lunny, Tav and Jack they have these standards naturally, in the same way that I do. So we are aligned about that and helping in that way.

“We have a coaching staff, Stef (Van Der Heyden), Alex (Rae), Brian (Gilmour) and Colin (Stewart). But you also have a coaching staff in the team and that’s crucial.

“I’ve seen it in Monaco. It was almost all young players, without the experience. Then I found it with Aurelien Tchouameni. The moment he left it was difficult to find those players in the squad.

“It’s not only about saying things, it’s about the execution. If the senior players have that mentality it’s easier for me. You first need to put those standards high yourself. It’s never easy, but it helps players understand the story really fast.”

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Clement has been unhappy about the lengthy injury list he has had to contend with since arriving in this country and has made improving the physical fitness of his charges a major focus. However, he has never had any concerns about the availability of Goldson and his skipper James Tavernier.

With a hectic schedule of fixtures – including the Europa League last 16 double header against Benfica of Portugal next month – coming up in the weeks months ahead it is reassuring for him to have two men he knows he can rely on. 

The Herald: “They are a little bit exceptions at the moment,” he said. “That is something we need to work on hard. There are a few important things with them. They have to play every three days at a really high level. But they have been through this cycle already so their bodies are ready.

“With some other players it is not yet the case so we need to work on it. That is going to be a very important point during the preparation also. We prepare their bodies and their minds for that. So, yeah, in that way they are examples.”

Clement will be without Todd Cantwell for the visit of Hearts today after his on-form playmaker suffered a hamstring strain that is set to keep him out of action for three to four weeks. 

It is, even though new signing Mohamed Diomande and Tom Lawrence can fill Cantwell’s vacant berth, far from ideal for him. But he has Kemar Roofe available once again and is confident his players can cope with going from being the hunters to the hunted. 

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“I don’t feel any pressure in this group,” he said. “I feel a lot of hunger, desire, will, motivation and quality in the training. You have two groups of eleven players how they fight each other in a good way.

“They don’t grow only about playing the games, they grow with the training and they challenge themselves and their team-mates. That is the way we will go until the end of the season. I am really not interested in how many points other teams have. It is only about us being ambitious to try and win every game.”