LEON Balogun and other members of the Rangers men’s and women’s squad marked Burns Night last week by attempting to recite our national bard’s poem To A Louse.

Their less than impressive, but highly amusing, efforts were filmed and posted on the Govan club’s social media channels and are well worth a watch.

Balogun has no doubt that his Nigerian countryman Cyriel Dessers has had “some Pow’r the giftie gie to see oursels as ithers see us” this season.

The unhappiness in the stands at Ibrox during the opening months of the 2023/24 campaign as Dessers, a £4.5m signing from Cremonese in Italy during the summer, struggled to justify the transfer fee it took to secure his services was tangible after all.  

He always knew, though, that his compatriot would exhibit the qualities of another of this country’s celebrated Roberts and would try, try and try again.

READ MOREClement in 'not aligned' Rangers Europa League squad admission

The centre half has not been surprised the striker, whose winner against St Mirren in Paisley last weekend took his tally for this term to 12, has come good in recent weeks, turned the jeers into cheers and gone from being something of a figure of fun to a firm fans’ favourite. 

Balogun, the former Werder Bremen, Mainz 05, Brighton and Crystal Palace defender, is in his second spell at Rangers and knows just how difficult it can be to settle and satisfy the demands of their legions of supporters from personal experience.

He encouraged a footballer who he has featured alongside at international level in the past to remain positive when he was failing to convert chances and being left out of the starting line-up and is pleased he has done so and shown exactly what he is capable of.  

“I try to speak to him every now and then on the side to make him understand,” he said. “I say, ‘Look, it is not always easy here, it can feel heated and like you’re carrying the world on your shoulders, but try to be yourself, dig in’.

The Herald: “What people forget looking from the outside in is that this is not the easiest club to come in to and then take a little bit of time to adapt. But I think he has been adapting. Actually, today on the training pitch I spoke to big (Connor) Goldson about him.

“We said, ‘My God, what a different player he is now’. You can just see. I think he has adapted to the pressure. Maybe he does not feel as much pressure, we don’t know. But he definitely looks different in training just now.”

Balogun continued: “Like I say, it is not easy at this club because there is so much expectation. That is something I told him beforehand, that you need to be ready for it. But I think it is easy to underestimate it if you are not here.

“We are all just human. Unfortunately, it does not always run your way. That is sometimes when probably you need a bit more compassion and empathy. But, at the same time, if you look at a club of this size you also understand why it isn’t there. It is about finding the balance, like with everything in life.

“He is only here for, what, five months. He is getting it more and more, which you can see in his performances lately. He has ramped up his assists and goals, which is good for his confidence. As I say, you can see especially in training. I said to him today, ‘This is the Cyriel Dessers I know’.

“The first game that we played in together was back in 2020. He came to the Super Eagles and I was there. He is quite confident actually. He is a quiet character, but he is easy within himself. I always had the feeling that he would take things on the chin and move forward.” 

READ MOREClement responds to Butland & Cifuentes Rangers transfer speculation

Both Balogun and Dessers were left out of the Nigeria squad for the African Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast this month by head coach Jose Peseiro. But the 46-times capped 35-year-old has cheered on his national team regardless. He is hopeful that he and his club mate can be involved again in the not-too-distant future. 

“Definitely,” he said. “You would like to be there at the end of the day if they lift the trophy, but you cannot have the cake and eat it too. I can’t speak for Cyriel too much, but I definitely have the ambition to play for my country again. 

“I think he was not too happy about not being considered in the end. But, yeah, we are both excited to see how far Nigeria progress in the tournament. This AFCON, in terms of surprises, is quite special.” 

Dessers going from zero to hero in the eyes of the Rangers faithful almost overnight has been surprising as well. But fans of the Ibrox club now chant “Nice One Cyril” every time the forward finds the target now. Balogun believes the backing which he is receiving from will only bolster his compatriot’s self-confidence further and only anticipates him going from strength to strength. 

“It’s massive, especially if you feel how they were maybe a little bit on his back,” he said. “Now they are pushing him forward and they have a song for him, which is great. I think he is going to embrace that and try to pay them back for that.”