Greg Stewart knows what it means to put the greater good before personal pride.
As a boyhood Rangers fan, he’d have loved nothing more than to have played a starring role on the march to last season’s Premiership triumph.
The trouble was that the 31-year-old found himself behind a list of players who had become so dependable there was no way Steven Gerrard could leave them out.
So that’s when it became about sacrifice.
Working hard behind the scenes knowing there would be no reward of a run-out at the weekend, instead pushing his rivals hard on the training pitch to ensure the likes of Alfredo Morelos, Ryan Kent, Kemar Roofe and Ianis Hagi were on top form when the real action came round.
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He may not feature as high on the 55 honour board as some of the names above, but Stewart felt just as justified in soaking up May’s wild title party as any of Gerrard’s regulars.
Stewart’s time at Ibrox is now up but Gerrard will hope his selfless streak has rubbed off on those he has left behind.
If Sunday’s stunning win over Real Madrid has demonstrated anything, it’s that the strength of depth on offer to the Light Blues boss has been patched up again, with new recruit Fashion Sakala bursting with promise and Scott Wright ready to take his game to the next level.
Gerrard will need those not involved in his starting XI to see the bigger picture as they begin the pursuit of 56 and a Champions League return - just as Stewart did during last year’s mission to halt Celtic’s quest for 10-in-a-row.
“Last year was a kind of strange season because it didn’t really matter if I was in the side or not,” Stewart confessed to Record Sport.
“I wasn’t really bothered if I played or not - the main thing was just to get the league won.
“When you don’t play you have to be a good team-mate and keep pushing the people in front of you.
“Maybe if I’d been at another club I wouldn’t have felt like that.
“But at Rangers, I felt like I had to be a good team-mate and push the guys ahead of me to make sure we got across the line.
“Unfortunately for me, they were producing the numbers, so I struggled to get in.
“But as I said, it didn’t really matter because we won the league and wow, what a job the boys did.
“I may not have played as much as I’d wanted but getting to take part in those celebrations wiped all the frustrations away. It made it a bit easier to take.
“I was able to celebrate with all my team-mates and that was special because I know how much effort they’d all put in during the two years I’d been at the club. I know how much effort the gaffer and the coaching staff have put in since moving to Rangers.
“The team has got better every year so to top it off by going unbeaten on the way to the title was massive and amazing to be a part of it in any way I could.”
In total, the former Cowdenbeath, Dundee, Birmingham, Kilmarnock and Aberdeen ace featured just eight times last term.
He hasn’t started a game since last September’s Europa League mauling of Lincoln Red Imps.
But having done his duty behind the scenes to help heave Rangers back to the top of Scottish football, Stewart admits it is time to start focusing on himself as he ponders offers of a fresh start from home and abroad.
“It didn’t come as a surprise when I was told I wouldn’t be given a new contract,” he said.
“I kind of expected it because I didn’t play that much last season.
“I only featured eight times and I’m at that age now where I need to try to play 30 or 40 games a season.
“There’s nothing worse as a football player when you’re not playing as much as you’d like.
“I missed out a lot last year so hopefully I can get back to a level where I’m playing consistently now.
“I’ve been back training on my own for a wee bit but I’m hopeful something will be sorted out this week.
“It will be good to get back in amongst it.
“I’ve had an offer from abroad and a few from Scotland so I’m just mulling over what’s best for me and my family.”
It is also decision time for Stewart’s old Ibrox colleague Connor Goldson.
Our sister paper the Sunday Mail reported the English defender has agreed to extend his stay in Glasgow by another three years - allaying fears amongst the Rangers faithful that he may be preparing to depart when his current deal expires next summer.
And Stewart admitted he had his own concerns that the former Brighton stopper’s unfinished business down south after his brief Premier League stint with the Seagulls might have forced a parting of the ways.
“What a servant Connor has been to Rangers. He’s hardly missed a minute,” he said.
“He acts like a captain most of the time even when he doesn’t have the armband.
“I know he’s only got a year left but I don’t think there’s any panic. He’s got a good relationship with the gaffer and the club and I hope something can be agreed.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if teams come sniffing as he’s a top defender.
“Connor is from England so his dream is probably to play in the Premier League and you'd need to respect that if that was something he’d want to do.
“I could see why he’d want to go down and have another crack at it as you want to challenge yourself against the best.
“But I also know Connor loves it up here so it wouldn’t surprise me if we see something happening in the next couple of weeks with that.
“I hope he does stay because he’s been unbelievable on and off the pitch. He’s a great guy who was brilliant with me when I joined the club.
“I have a lot of admiration for what he’s done for the club and long may that continue.”
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