Why Connor Goldson stands tallest this season for Rangers - and holds European record
Perfect attendance offers no guarantee of success in Scottish football, but Connor Goldson’s remarkable durability for Rangers is set to reap a richly deserved reward this season.
The Ibrox club might even consider adding a special gold star to the Scottish Premiership winners’ medal which Goldson should be taking possession of in May.
The 28-year-old defender is the only member of Steven Gerrard’s squad who has played every minute of every match in every competition so far in the 2020-21 campaign.
Goldson, in fact, has now not been absent from the Rangers’ team sheet for over a year, when he was rested for a Scottish Cup tie against Stranaer at Ibrox on January 17, 2020.
Even then, you suspect the big Englishman required considerable persuasion from Gerrard to convince him of the merits of taking a breather.
Making up for lost time
Goldson has displayed an insatiable appetite for game time ever since he joined Rangers from Brighton in the summer of 2018, a hunger he understandably attributes to the heart scare which required preventative surgery in February 2017 and which restricted him to just 16 appearances in his last two seasons at the south coast club.
“He wants to play every minute of every game and given the size of Connor, I’m not sure I’m going to fall out with him,” Gerrard said with a smile earlier this season when he explained his decision not to leave Goldson out of the Betfred Cup tie at Falkirk which saw several of his other key men offloaded.
“He feels he’s making up for lost time because of what’s happened to him in the past. He recovers quicker than most and he’s ready. He’s in a fantastic place. I would love to have taken Connor off the pitch but while he’s looking at me in disgust as I think about doing so, I’ll let him go just now.”
While that response from Gerrard was delivered with an element of jest, it is clear he would only omit Goldson from his starting line-up if he felt it was entirely necessary.
Last Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Motherwell at Fir Park saw Goldson make his 67th consecutive Scottish Premiership appearance for Rangers, a sequence stretching back to February 2019. While Gerrard has regularly rotated his other central defenders – Nikola Katic, Filip Helander, Leon Balogun and George Edmundson – during his tenure, Goldson has been a constant.
This season alone, the 3150 minutes he has completed in all competitions is currently more than any other player in Europe has racked up in club football.
It is a campaign which has seen Goldson back up those numbers with the outstanding consistency of his performances at the heart of a defence which has conceded just seven league goals as Rangers relentlessly pursue a first title triumph in a decade.
Goldson’s form is also testament to his resilience, given some of the difficulties he encountered towards the end of the curtailed 2019-20 campaign when, along with several of his team-mates, he was hardly flavour of the month as far as the Rangers supporters were concerned.
The 1-0 home defeat to Hamilton Accies last March was one of the low points as Rangers’ overall performance levels dipped dramatically after the winter break – it was a night when Goldson was culpable for a hesitant and ill-advised attempt to control the ball on the edge of his own penalty area, allowing Accies striker David Moyo to nip in and score the winner.
Providing a goal threat
But Gerrard’s faith in Goldson has never wavered and since the start of this season, he has scarcely put a foot wrong defensively while also making a valuable contribution at the other end of the pitch where his threat from attacking set pieces has seen him claim seven goals so far.
Two of those came in the 2-0 Old Firm victory at Celtic Park in October, a result which saw Rangers truly seize the initiative in the title race. Goldson now regards getting his name on the scoresheet as a probability rather than a possibility.
“It has been a case of a bit of good fortune and feeling confident and expecting to score rather than hoping,” he told Rangers Matchday Programme recently.
“With the delivery from the boys, we know there is always quality coming into the box. It is up to me to attack it and I am happy to have got on the scoresheet a number of times so far.
“At the start of the season, I always hope to help the team by maybe scoring six or eight, so hopefully I can push that up to double figures and help the team get more points.”
The attacking prowess of his team-mate and captain James Tavernier has catapulted the right-back to the forefront of any debate on the likely winner of Player of the Year honours in Scotland this season. But Goldson’s reliability means he also has to be regarded as a leading candidate for the individual plaudits when they are handed out.
It is as a team player, however, that Goldson most desires recognition for his efforts as Rangers bid to ensure the club’s long and often painful wait for major silverware comes to an end.
“Hopefully we can win a trophy,” he said. “Everyone is in a positive place and the whole club seems to have a positive energy around it. We are performing well and it is breeding results on the football pitch.
“If we can keep doing that and keep winning games, then hopefully it takes us in the direction that not only us players, but the whole club, wants to go in.”
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