World Sport

Rangers defender Connor Goldson played through the pain barrier and revelled in the Old Firm celebrations

The pain had been replaced by pride, the swelling on his ankle forgotten about as a smile beamed across his face. From the depths of despair, Goldson felt the ultimate Old Firm high.

The injury he sustained against Hibernian on Boxing Day threatened to rule Goldson out of one of the biggest games of his career as he feared his derby starting spot had been snatched away from him.

But the defender dug deep for himself, his team-mates and his manager. He was nowhere near fit, but he was a commanding presence as Ryan Jack’s strike fired Rangers into Premiership title contention.

“I was probably as professional as I ever have been for two days,” Goldson said. “It was never a game I wanted to miss.

“I have said all along, I came up here for big occasions, big games of football. It could have gone either way but put it this way: I would have been gutted if I had been sitting in the stand watching.

“I had bruising all round my Achilles, both sides of my ankle. The guy just landed on me when I fell in the Hibs game.

“He has literally rocked the whole ankle. When I woke up on the Thursday, I couldn’t even get out of bed.

“I couldn’t walk on it. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t speak to my missus in the morning. I was a little bit emotional.

“She actually said to me, ‘you need to get over it, if you’re not going to play, you’re not going to play, it’s not the end of the world’.

“But I knew I had to. Not for the team, but for me. I wanted to play in that game.

“She understands everything. She knows how much I love football and that it’s all I want to do.

“She saw in those two days how much it meant for me to play in that game. After it, she and the family were there to appreciate the day and what it takes to play in those games.”

When Goldson hobbled off after an hour of that stalemate with Hibernian, everyone inside Ibrox would have feared the worst with Celtic in mind.

Boss Gerrard issued a rallying call to his walking wounded as he demanded one final push, one last performance, before the winter break.

Scott Arfield and Ryan Kent stepped up and delivered in style. So, too, did Goldson as he played through the pain barrier and rose to the occasion when it mattered most.

“Credit to the doctors and physios, they patched me up as much as they could,” he said.

“I iced it 24/7 and tried to do everything I could to try to get it moving. Even in the warm-up, I wasn’t great. I had the injection but as soon as the game kicked off, I didn’t feel a thing.

“It was my decision [to have the injection]. I asked the doctor straight after the Hibs game, ‘what can I take to get through this game?’

“I knew that after the game I would have three weeks off to let it rest and let it get better. So luckily for me, I was able to play.

“I didn’t feel it. As a footballer, the adrenaline kicks in. When you are hearing that noise and you are so focused on the game, you don’t have time to think about your ankle or whatever it is.

“When you’re walking about the house, you are constantly thinking about it, thinking ‘is it hurting or is it not?’.

“But as soon as the whistle went and you are out there, the drugs kick in and you just along with the game and try to focus on football.”

The pain and the effort was certainly worth it for Goldson. On a day where Rangers won the war, he thrived in his own individual battles against the Celtic attack.

As Ibrox celebrated at the end and emotion swirled around the stadium, the Englishman took a moment to just take it all in as he lapped up the adulation from supporters.

It was a day that has been a long time coming for Rangers. It is one that Goldson will never forget.

“The whole stand was bouncing,” he said. “As we were walking off the pitch, I just took a moment to appreciate it.

“There are good times in football that you need to take in and there are bad times that you need to get rid of as quickly as you can. So when the good times are there, try to take them in.

“I think my face said everything. I was just full of joy and happiness.

“We knew how big that game was. We knew we had to turn up, and we did so.

“That little bit after the game was just me taking in what it actually means to people.

“They showed from the first whistle that when we play like that, they will back us 100 per cent. When we don’t, it can get little bit sticky.

“It shows you that’s how we have to play because when we do play like that, we are difficult to play against and the whole stadium get behind us.”

That win over Celtic has given Rangers fresh impetus this term and Gerrard’s side are now very much in the Premiership title race.

The post-match scenes showed how much the victory meant to supporters but it was only an insight into what could come if the Gers can go all the way this term.

That is now the ultimate aim as Gerrard prepares for a potentially historic second half of the season at their winter training base in Tenerife.

Goldson said: “It’s huge. I don’t think any of us probably realised how big it would be but that’s probably a taster.

“I think it was more of a relief for Rangers fan to be honest. All you heard was ‘you made our New Year’, ‘it’s been so long’.

“I’ve heard that from so many people that I’ve met up here and become friends with.

“Now, we go into another part of the season and we have another two games against them but that game takes a lot of pressure off us as a club. We know we can go into games against any of the big teams and know that we can win.”

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