New Glasgow Rangers defender Leon Balogun is thrilled after helping the Gers secure a hard-earned win over Aberdeen on the opening day of the 2020/21 Scottish Premiership on Saturday.
The former Hannover 96, Werder Bremen, Fortuna Dusseldorf and Brighton footballer, had his fellow Rangers teammates clapping for him in the dressing room following the final whistle, after helping them keep a clean sheet.
Balogun did not take part in any of the Ibrox club’s pre-season friendlies after signing a one-year deal last week and was given a baptism of fire after being named in Gerrard’s starting XI for his side’s opening day trip to Pittodrie.
The Nigeria international gained plenty of admirers for his commanding performance in the heart of the Rangers defence, as the away side recorded a 1-0 win over Aberdeen thanks to Ryan Kent’s first-half strike.
“It was special for me to get a round of applause from my teammates,” he said.
“They told me this is a tough place to make your debut, so I’m happy. I’m just happy I was able to perform in the way I performed. That said, you are only as good as your last match, so I need to rest ahead of the next game. I want to help the group become successful.
“I enjoyed the game a lot. I was looking forward to getting started. The second half was maybe not what we wanted but it’s always great to start the season with a win. As a defender it’s also good to get a clean sheet. We accomplished that, so it’s a good start for us.
“I was happy to start the game first of all. I did anticipate it after our training sessions but it’s still a great compliment to get the shirt straight away. I said when I came I wanted to work and honour it, so I was glad to get the opportunity.”
But the new Rangers centre-half admitted he was unhappy with a challenge from Aberdeen defender Scott McKenna at Pittodrie yesterday that left him requiring medical attention on a head knock.
Balogun, the Nigerian international who joined the Glasgow club last month, failed to get up after being shoved into the goal post at a Matt Kennedy corner-kick in the second-half.
The 32-year-old only continued after receiving treatment and helped Steven Gerrard’s side to record a narrow victory.
“I wanted to get up, but I couldn’t,” he said. “It wasn’t quite lights out but a little bit tough for me. I carried on playing and it wasn’t too bad. Maybe I’ll get some dizziness and a headache but I have tablets for that so it’s okay.
“I think it was McKenna who pushed me into the goal post. Was I unhappy with the challenge? Obviously, because it shouldn’t happen. But then again I didn’t die so it’s okay. It’s part of the game so I think about it like a message ‘welcome to Scottish football’. If that’s what it is then I just need to get used to it and make sure I don’t get caught out next time.”
Meanwhile, Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has revealed his delight following an assured display from the new signing, saying you don’t win anything without “warriors” like the defender.
“You don’t win anything without (warriors), that’s why I like them,” Gerrard told Rangers TV.
“For Leon’s debut, away at Pittodrie, being in the door a week, it was outstanding and I am very pleased for him.
“He got a round of applause in the dressing room which was thoroughly deserved.”