CHRIS HEGARTY fulfilled a lifelong ambition by playing for his childhood heroes Rangers.

And he realised a dream when he scored a goal in front of more than 44,000 fans at Ibrox at the start of this season.

The defender was also proud to help the club he grew up supporting begin "The Journey" back to the forefront of Scottish football.

But when Hegarty, who this week signed for Belfast club Linfield, looks back on his time at the Glasgow giants, there is one undoubted highlight.

"The occasion that sticks out in my mind the most was on Poppy Day last season," he said. "To play for Rangers at centre-half alongside Lee McCulloch against Peterhead at Ibrox in front of a full house was amazing.

"But then the armed forces came onto the park at half-time and my older brother Barry, who is a corporal in the Royal Engineers, was one of them.

"To have my brother on the same pitch as me was just class. I have never felt a buzz like it in my life."

It was just one of many magical moments the 21-year-old experienced in his four rollercoaster years at Rangers.

Hegarty was the first player to put pen to paper after they were consigned to the Third Division back in 2012.

It was, despite the struggles the Govan giants endured in the bottom tier, not a decision he had cause to regret.

And the Northern Ireland Under-21 international believes the experience will stand him in good stead in his career in the future.

He said: "Returning to Rangers was a no-brainer for me. Sticking by the club was one of the best things I have ever done. It was the best decision I have ever made.

"All the Rangers fans I met afterwards thanked me for standing by the club and that is something I will never forget.

"It was great to be part of the team that season. It was a tough campaign. But that has made me stronger as a player. It made me a lot thicker-skinned."

Hegarty, who was sidelined for the majority of the 2013/14 campaign through injury, was released from his contract at Rangers this week "by mutual consent".

And the centre-half is looking forward to playing for Linfield in the Europa League and helping them try and reclaim the NIFL Premiership in the season ahead.

He said: "I spoke to Ally McCoist and he told me that at my age I needed to go away and play games. I agreed with him totally. I am delighted to have joined Linfield. I am signing for the second most successful club in the world. It is a great club and I think they are going places.

"They have brought in Warren Feeney as manager and he is clearly not afraid to make decisions as he has got rid of four or five players."

Hegarty continued: "Andy Todd is the assistant manager at Linfield. He was the captain of Blackburn Rovers and was also a centre-half.

"He and I are on the same wavelength and hopefully I can learn a lot from him. Andy is one of the main reasons I am coming to Linfield.

"It will be good to have a mentor who played in my position."