Stevie Campbell backs John Souttar to become Rangers LEGEND as ex-Dundee United youth coach explains £15m transfer prediction

Campbell played a leading role in the stopper’s development during his days at Tannadice.

From the age of 15, Stevie Campbell knew that Rangers summer signing John Souttar possessed a lot of the attributes required to play at the highest level.

The Scotland international has been faced with plenty of adversity throughout his career to date, displaying incredible resiliance to battle back from a series of devastating injury setbacks.

The new Light Blues centre-back been plagued by three seperate Achilles issues in recent years, keeping him on the sidelines for a combined total of 522 days.

John Souttar has started both rangers friendlies and was booked for this challenge on Spurs' Richarlison. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

However, despite that desperately unfortunate set of circumstances, Souttar starred under the guidance of Robbie Neilson at Hearts and now finds himself at arguably the greatest stage in his career after joining the Ibrox club on a pre-contract agreement this summer.

The 25-year-old has slotted in seamlessly alongside Connor Goldson at the heart of the Rangers defence over the course of pre-season, impressing on both occasions against Premier League sides West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur in recent friendlies.

His former Dundee United youth coach isn’t surprised to see Souttar now plying his trade for one of the biggest clubs in Scotland and reckons he will write his name into the history books at Rangers.

Speaking exclusively to GlasgowWorld, Campbell said: “John has earned his move to Rangers. I was actually in his coffee shop in Brechin not that long ago and he quickly became the focus of discussion – his ears must’ve been burning!

“Hearts, of course, are a top club but I always knew he would end up at an even higher level, playing Champions League football for example.

“Nothing surprises me with John. I remember him coming through the academy at United and he was one of quite a few top players at the time like Ryan Gauld and Scott Fraser to step up to full-time football.

“They all came in at the age of 15 and we couldn’t even pay them for at least another six months but they were very dedicated.

“John had loads to learn but the biggest thing was his mentality and his attitude. He worked ever so hard and was always wanting to do everything right.

“He would always ask questions about things we were coaching him on. We had a debate once about his positioning when he was marking Mario Bilate in training and he peeled off John to score.

“So he went home to watch the Champions League Final and came in the next day and told me ‘Stevie, you were right.’ I was thinking “Of course I’m bloody right!

“I remember watching him play in the semi-final of a youth cup game against Queen of the South. Two of our players who were starting regularly at the time were called up to the Scotland under-18 squad and we didn’t have a right-back available but I knew John would be able to step in.

“I didn’t think he would end up as a centre-half but he is one of those players who could play anywhere. I think we lost 5-4 and John got sent off for a late tackle.

“You could see how frustrated he was. He wanted to win so badly, he’s a born winner. He was just out of school and we threw him in and he was man of the match before getting sent off.

“When I left United, he was in the first-team at the age of 16, which was ridiculous. He was playing in semi-finals of major cup competitions but the thing that struck me was how comfortable and confident he was on the ball.

“I always remember his doing that Cruyff turn on the edge of his box in the semi-final at Hampden. We had no worries about him, he always believed in his own ability and without that you don’t become a top player.

“He’s been through a lot of bad times as well, a lot of serious injuries. He’s faced a lot of adversity but that’s the making of the man.”

Respected coach Campbell recalled a time Souttar came in for a lot of criticism from supporters at Tannadice when the Tangerines were struggling for form after a run of defeats.

John Souttar in action for Dundee United. Picture: SNS

It was the way he responded that increased pressure which impressed Campbell most.

He added: “John has a long career ahead of him but there was a period at Dundee United when some fans weren’t too complimentary about him.

“The club were going through a bit of a hard time and I remember texting him saying ‘Listen, don’t worry. I can see them eating their words when they see you going for £15million to a top, top club.’

“I think maybe his demeanour and composure could sometimes impact the way fans reacted to him but that was the furthest thing from the truth.

“I know you can never say for sure that a player will be worth that much because there are so many things that can halt your progression.

“But the biggest thing was having that drive, determination and mentality John had to succeed at such a young age. That’s why we had no qualms about throwing him in to big games.

“He’s never looked back since his days at United and he’s played in a number of positions as well which I think has been good for his development.

Souttar is a new signing at Rangers having joined from Hearts earlier this month. The Black Cats may come up against his brother Harry this season when they face Stoke City.

“He had a lot to learn about the art of defending but I don’t think he could’ve went to a better manager than Craig Levein at Hearts because he remains the best defensive coach I’ve ever worked with.

“I’ve seen an incredible turnaround in John’s heading ability, decision making and defensive positioning. He’s come on leaps and bounds and he seems to have really found his voice.

“He’ll do exactly the same at Rangers. He’s grown into a real leader and I’ve got nothing but admiration and praise for him. He’s had plenty of setbacks and some players would’ve crumbled in the modern game nowadays but his resilience has been great to see.

“His passing ability as well is another big strength. He’s probably the most composed defender I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Jack Hendry comes close behind.

“I remember him telling me his favourite player to watch was David Luiz and I thought to myself ‘oh my word! Don’t say that to me.’ One because of the hairstyle and two because he told me that just before Brazil got beat 7-1 against Germany in the semi-final of the World Cup!

“So you wonder why you’d model yourself on a player like that but I could eventually see where John was coming from.

“Defending shouldn’t just be about sitting back and taking no risks, it’s about having that ability to breaking lines and carrying the ball out of defence.

“Some of the passes he pulls off are remarkable to watch and I really think he could become a Rangers legend.

“He’s joining the club at a very exciting time under Van Bronckhorst. This season is going to be so exciting to see how it unfolds because of the incredible work Ange (Postecoglou) has done at Celtic too.

“It will be interesting to watch John and see how he handles being at a club like Rangers. The expectation levels will be at an all-time high because they’ll be desperate to win the title back and play Champions League football.

“John will handle whatever is thrown at him. He’ll play alongside Connor Goldson and that’s a challenge he will absolutely relish.”

Souttar scored his first international goal for Scotland during a World Cup qualifier against Denmark in November 2021 and Campbell, who was in attendance at Hampden, revealed it was one of the proudest moments he has experienced in over 20 years of coaching.

John Souttar gave Scotland the lead against Denmark at Hampden in November. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

He stated: “It’s probably too hard to describe how I felt. To see him score for Scotland and the emotion that was etched across his face was an amazing moment.

“I was actually worried about his knee after he performed that stupid sliding celebration! You think about all the time he’s spent with the physios rehabbing injuries, it was great to see him represent our country and score his first goal.

“There will be plenty more caps to come, I’ve no doubt. It’s always a bit special knowing you’ve played a wee part in their development.

“John is a great example to any aspiring young footballer. I’m really excited to see what the future could bring for him.

“The bigger the occasion, the better for John. He just absolutely loves playing on the big stage and he won’t be phased in any way at all.

“He will be looking forward to going in there and making up for the time he spent out through injury in the future because he’s a top, top professional.”