Leon Balogun expects battle to put brakes on Celtic to exceed Wigan workload

Leon Balogun spent five months at Wigan battling against relegation – but he admits the stresses at the bottom of the English Championship are unlikely to come close to the pressure facing Rangers as they aim to halt 10 in a row.

The Nigeria defender still feels a burning sense of injustice after seeing the Latics plunged into chaos when they went into administration last month.

Despite Paul Cook’s team collecting enough points to finish comfortably in mid-table, the owners’ shock decision to place the club into administration on July 1 landed them with a 12-point penalty which ultimately sent them down.

Balogun still feels an injustice over Wigan's relegation
Balogun still feels an injustice over Wigan's relegation

It is credit to Balogun and his team-mates that they refused to bow to the situation and took their fight for survival all the way to the final day.

But Balogun knows it will likely take the same kind of gritty effort from his new side if Rangers are to put the brakes on Celtic’s quest for a record-breaking 10th straight Scottish Premiership title this season.

“I thought about the pressure I’ll face here compared to at Wigan not too long ago,” said the 32-year-old. “It’s similar I’d say, but with the size of this club and the expectation I think you will get to feel a bit more frustration than maybe you would getting relegated at a different club.

“Do I feel an injustice about what happened to Wigan? Definitely. I’m sad actually as I really enjoyed my stay at the club. The people there are nice and no one deserves what has happened. It’s such a shame.

“We had a positive goal difference, we actually achieved 59 points but then to be relegated is just tough. I just hope that the club can recover soon.”

Balogun is still getting to grips with his new Glasgow surroundings.

Social media has given him some insight but already the message from the Light Blue legions is clear – Celtic must be stopped and the Ibrox club’s 55th domestic crown clinched.

“I still have to learn about (the size of Rangers) because with the fans being excluded and all the restrictions, I’ve not been able to get a full idea yet,” he admitted. “Over social media you get an idea but it’s not the reality.

“But I think Rangers’ ambition is pretty clear. I’ve read a hashtag – ‘Stop the 10’, something like that. And the number 55 is a big one, too.

“So that’s a pretty clear goal for this team. Obviously the club will do everything to accomplish that.”

Balogun certainly made his mark on his new supporters with a classy display on his debut last week against Aberdeen.

But with Steven Gerrard’s summer recruits ineligible for Thursday night’s clash with Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, Filip Helander took his chance to impress on his return from an eight-month injury lay-off.

👉 @LeonBalogun is bigger in real life. pic.twitter.com/FowrprJECV

— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) August 6, 2020

Balagun now faces a fight to reclaim his spot against St Mirren on Sunday but the former Brighton stopper is ready to show he has the mentality needed to be a success at Rangers.

“That’s actually something I’ve enjoyed the most from the start,” he said. “It’s a different demand, a different mindset around everybody at the club.

“The professionalism – and I’ve been at a few clubs – is on another level. There’s a competitiveness in every aspect of the club and that helps you to keep on top of your game. You can never rest or switch off. If you do, you’re in trouble.

“That was something that stood out to me at first. I’ve never had it like that before. It’s a new challenge – I’ve always liked challenges.”