Andy Goram said he had always been proud of his close connection with Rangers fans in Northern Ireland.
The Ibrox legend hit back at claims he sympathizes with loyalist terrorists and described claims he participated in anti-Catholic behavior as “nonsense”.
The 58-year-old goalkeeper legend, who has terminal oesophageal cancer, said Gers supporters in Belfast made him ‘feel relaxed’ every time he visited the city’s pubs .
Now these fans are supporting him in his fight for life after doctors predicted Goram had about six months to live.
He said: “I’ve had more fan messages in Northern Ireland than anywhere else.”
Goram regularly visited more than 100 Rangers supporters’ clubs in the province, including Shankill Road in Belfast – a Protestant and Unionist stronghold.
He added: “I have never tolerated bigotry. Just because I have close ties to Northern Ireland and have been on Shankill Road doesn’t mean I support bigotry or terrorism.
“I loved going to Belfast, where the punters treated me tremendously.
“Why should I be ashamed of that?”
Goram said the outpouring of support he had received from Northern Ireland fans since it was revealed he had terminal cancer was overwhelming.
He said: “I’ve been to every fan club in Northern Ireland and they’ve all messaged since finding out I was ill.
“I really can’t thank them enough.
“I’ve had messages and cards from Rangers fans all over the world, but the amount from Northern Ireland tops the bill. They’ve been brilliant.
Goram first traveled to Northern Ireland with teammate Ian Durrant shortly after signing for Rangers in 1991.
The club wanted to build a closer relationship with the fanbase and sent the duo to Portadown to hand out prizes in a five-man tournament.
It was the beginning of Goram’s 30-year relationship with the Troubled region.
However, the former Rangers no1 says religious bigotry has not swayed him during his frequent visits to Belfast.
He said: “Rangers and Celtic players have to watch their shoulder every time they go out in Glasgow.
“There’s always a risk that someone will try to give it to you just because you play for half the Old Firm.
“I witnessed it, it’s just a fact of life.
“I never felt that in Northern Ireland. I always felt relaxed around people.
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“I love the fans and their jokes. They watched over me.
“Much has been said about my love of the place and my visit to Shankill Road.
“Where am I supposed to go in Belfast as a Rangers player or ex-player?
“Do people expect me to go to Falls Road?” Go on.”
The Falls Road is a main road in Belfast which is considered a Catholic area and is a few meters from Shankill Road.
Goram last visited a supporters’ club in Northern Ireland with his former team-mate Charlie Miller and former striker Derek Johnstone three months ago – just weeks before he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
He added: “The reception has been as good as it has ever been, if not better.
“The fans are in good spirits because the club is back in place and the team is performing well.”
Goram pointed to his close friendship with Celtic idol Frank McAvennie as proof that he was not a fanatic.
He also said he wouldn’t have married his second wife Tracey, whom he met when he signed for Hibs in 1987, if he held bigoted beliefs.
Goram said, “People have tried to say I’m a fanatic. It makes no sense.
“I have Catholic friends. Macca is one of my closest friends – my second wife, Tracey, was Catholic.
“People can say whatever they want. They have their opinions.
Goram became mired in controversy after claiming he wore a black armband during an Old Firm game in tribute to loyalist terrorist Billy Wright.
Wright – nicknamed King Rat by his enemies – was the leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force and had been linked to 20 Catholic murders.
The game against Celtic at Parkhead on January 2, 1998 came just days after Wright was murdered in Belfast’s Maze prison by Irish National Liberation Army prisoners.
He was shot three times. Goram insisted the armband was in honor of his recently deceased Aunt Lilly.
He said the match against Celtic was the first televised match since his death.
Goram added: “I met Billy Wright once on a flight to Belfast.
“He sat across from me and we talked about football.
“I had no idea who he was until someone told me.
“We weren’t friends. We didn’t know each other.
“The black armband was for my Aunt Lilly who played a huge role in my upbringing, that’s the truth.”
He said: “When you spend as much time in Belfast as I do, you are going to meet people who were involved in The Troubles.
“Most of the time you have no idea who they are.
“I never approved of violence and I was never interested in terrorism.”
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