Craig Gordon believes John Souttar deserves respect for rebuilding his career after injury as the Hearts defender agreed a summer move to Rangers.
Souttar was offered a new deal at Hearts and had options in England before deciding to join Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s team and his decision to move to Ibrox has angered some Hearts fans.
The defender came back from three successive Achilles injuries to become a regular and influential performer for Hearts, and then earned a return to the Scotland squad.
Gordon, who overcame serious injury himself before success at Celtic and Hearts, said that Souttar’s efforts had to be respected and that he deserved the right to make a move.
“John has been absolutely fantastic since he came back from his injury and I don’t think there is anybody in this squad who worked as hard as he has to get back from that,” the Hearts captain said.
“You have to respect how well he has done in such a short space of time from looking like he might never play football again to being one of our best players and subject of a move.
“From that point of view it is a fantastic achievement for him, for our medical staff, our sports science, to get him back from those injuries.
“As team-mates, we know he has given absolutely 100 per cent every single day.
“It is a very special achievement to come back from the injuries has had. It is hard, it doesn’t happen very often.”
Gordon admitted that Souttar would leave big boots to fill but said it was the nature of football that players moved on and would be replaced.
“He will be a miss but that’s football and it is not the first time it has ever happened,” he said. “We will get on with it and the club will still be here after any player, manager, owner.
“I understand that the fans won’t be happy. I’m disappointed. I would love to see him stay for another few years but these things happen, that’s his decision.
“But the only way he got himself into the position to make that decision was performing really well with Hearts and we have to remember he has really turned it around.”