By Doug Ward

31st Jul, 2022 | 1:00pm

Michael Stewart blasts John Souttar as BBC Sportscene share Rangers footage v Livingston

Michael Stewart wasn’t impressed by John Souttar’s performance as the defender made his Rangers debut in the 2-1 win against Livingston on Saturday, 30 July.

Souttar, 25, should have done a lot better to stop Jon Nouble from finding the back of the net when he opened the scoring in the fifth minute for David Martindale’s side at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

The ex-Hearts centre-back, who signed for the Gers on a free transfer this summer, was also booked in the first half before eventually being substituted off by Giovanni van Bronckhorst in the 67th minute.

Stewart feels Souttar should have done better but he has defended the Scotland international because he was playing in a role he’s not entirely accustomed to.

“It’s not just John Souttar, you see Borna Barisic here. He’s actually touch-tight to Nicky Devlin when the ball’s kicked and he drops off, allows him the free header,” said Stewart on BBC Scotland’s Sportscene show on Saturday night (30 July, 14m41s).

“And then, of course, it’s clear for everybody to see that John Souttar’s got to do better.

“First of all, he’s got to get himself in the right position and then he gets himself spun and outmuscled.

“It’s a wonderful finish from Jon Nouble.

“For me it is [a problem he’s never played left centre-half before] because last season, when he came back from injury, he was playing in a back-three at Hearts on the right-side. He was very, very good.

“He’s gone to a new club, he’s playing in a back-four, he’s playing on the left side and he’s playing with a full-back who’s not the best defensively.

“All those things and combinations have led to what was – let’s be honest – an uncomfortable opening day of the season for the club.

“But John Souttar’s a good player and I hope he gets the time to bed into the position because it is an important thing that’s been lost in a lot of the conversations.”

Early days

If you’re writing off Souttar already then you need to give your head a wobble.

Souttar was tremendous at Hearts and we all saw what he was capable of while playing for them and playing for Scotland.

Van Bronckhorst and Ross Wilson have signed him for a reason and it looks as though he’s going to be a mainstay of the defensive line for much of the season.

However, he’s never been a left-sided centre-back so it’s going to take some time for him to settle into that role and, as Stewart said, get used to playing close to Barisic.

Still, Saturday was day one in what is going to be a very long season and much will change over the coming weeks and months.

Rangers begin their European campaign on Tuesday night (2 August) with a trip to Belgium to play Union Saint-Gilloise in the Champions League qualifying rounds.

We expect van Bronckhorst to ring some changes for that showdown and he may want to experiment with the defence.

However, if he wants Souttar to get used to playing the role he was used in at Almondvale then we’d suggest that he sticks with that in Belgium.

Every minute will help.

In other Rangers news, Kenny Miller was thrilled with this player’s performance against Livi.