Soccer

Leon Balogun ‘grateful’ to have earned trust of Rangers boss Philippe Clement

Rangers’ Leon Balogun (left) (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Rangers’ Leon Balogun (left) (Andrew Milligan/PA) Rangers’ Leon Balogun (left) (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Leon Balogun is happy to have earned the trust of Philippe Clement after taking advantage of a reset under the Rangers boss.

The 35-year-old centre-back returned to Ibrox for a second spell from QPR in the summer but, under former manager Michael Beale, he featured only against Livingston and Morton and was even left out of the Europa League squad.

Clement took over from Beale in October and Balogun was handed a start in the 5-0 cinch Premiership win over Dundee on Tayside at the start of the following month.

The former Mainz, Brighton and Wigan player has played in the six domestic games since and is building a partnership with Connor Goldson as John Souttar and Ben Davies provide competition.

Balogun is pleased that he has been able to capitalise on the clean slate Clement offered the whole squad upon his Ibrox arrival.

He said: “I’m really grateful for that and it means a lot because I’ve had a tough spell being on the sidelines and it seems to be a bit of trust at least.

“I’ve been a professional now for 16 years almost so it (clean slate) doesn’t always go that way.

“You always think that way and I’ve seen it turn out completely different but I’m happy it went that way.

“But I think he’s been a breath of fresh air for everyone. Just in his ways.

“I’m sure you (the media) had one or more encounters with him so you get an idea of his persona and I think the boys take it on really well and you can see that in our performances overall.”

Rangers’ 1-0 cinch Premiership win over Hearts at Tynecastle on Wednesday night courtesy of Abdallah Sima’s 12th goal of the season kept the Light Blues eight points behind leaders Celtic having played a game fewer.

Clement has gone 11 games unbeaten since becoming Gers boss but, after disappointing draws against Aberdeen in the league and Aris Limassol in the Europa League respectively, the 2-0 win over St Mirren on Sunday keeps them on the heels of the Hoops.

“I think what you can see is there is a momentum we are creating right now,” said Balogun. “It would be foolish of us to now think, ‘okay things are just going to go our way’.

“But if I look into the dressing room I hear everybody, I hear the players on the pitch talking to each other, there’s no-one taking anything for granted.

“So we have to keep building. The way we came off the last two games (Aberdeen and Aris) where we had a set-back, slap on the neck and then came back into the games, shows you the character we’re building at the moment.”