Connor Goldson ran down the Parkhead tunnel two weeks ago to be confronted by an atmosphere of hostility but far from being unsettled or intimidated, he felt thankful.
It was two years to the day that he had to endure two hours of delicate heart surgery that saved his life.
Here he was playing in one of the greatest games in world football and he savoured it, even if the occasion ultimately proved to be disappointing.
It was a moment of clarity for Goldson who had been oblivious to the fact that he was suffering from an enlarged aorta until he was virtually dragged to hospital for a check-up.
The Rangers centre-back said: “Two years to the day of my operation I was playing in the Old Firm game in front of 60,000 so it puts things in perspective.
“Football is football and it’s not more important than life or death. I’m one of the sorest losers in our changing room and I hate losing.
“But when you go through something – or someone in your family does – then it puts so much into perspective.
“I’ve nearly played 50 games this season so I feel happy every single day.
“Sometimes I take things for granted, maybe after playing three games a week and feeling a bit tired.
“And then I see the picture of me with the big plaster over my chest after the operation and I realise what’s important.”
Although there was a history of heart trouble in his family, Goldson, who was at Brighton when the issue was detected, had no inclination that there was something seriously wrong. He said: “We still don’t know to this day what caused the problem in the first place – whether the aorta was growing or not.
“It’s been in the family. My Dad had a heart attack when he was in his late 30s and his dad died of a heart attack.
“So I was always wary of it and that there might be something wrong with me.
“I remember when the physio asked me to go and get it tested. I was supposed to be playing Call of Duty with the boys. So I wanted to go home and play and I told the physio I didn’t really want to go.
“He said to me ‘Look it’s costing the club £1,500 and it’s only half an hour, just go’.
“So I went and then I got the results two days later. It was emotional. I went to see the specialist in London with the club doctor and I remember breaking down in front of him. I remember thinking ‘I’m 24 years old, I’m not a boy’ and I don’t think he could relate to me on that level as he had never seen me emotional.
“It was hard because you don’t really want to show that side to someone you don’t really know well.
“I just remember being in the back of his car in tears.
“There had been no physical signs. I had never had any problems before in my life and when you’re a footballer you never think it’s going to happen to you.
“You are working daily in training and playing matches since leaving school at 16 and all of a sudden something like that comes along.”
Remarkably, Goldson was back training and playing just eight weeks after surgery on 31 March, 2017.
The only thing that is troubling him now is that Rangers did not achieve more this season.
He is regretful that they are not in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic on Sunday, he believes they should have made the Betfred Cup final and he knows they have been too inconsistent in the league.
However, with good recruitment and extending the loan arrangements of Ryan Kent and Joe Worrall he thinks Rangers will be a force next season.
He said: “I wanted to come to Rangers and win things. That we haven’t managed that is a regret.
“The little blips have scarred us along the way, especially in the big games in both cups.
“I hope Joe comes back for another season and we’d definitely like Ryan to stay as well.
“The squad the manager has built this year has done really well and I feel we are just a few parts away from being successful.”
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