As a player and a person, Joe Aribo doesn’t immediately come across as having a nasty streak. He is keen to develop one, though.
The midfielder is pleasant to deal with off the park, a calm and perhaps placid figure that has taken the mad world of Scottish football, and the demands of Rangers, in his stride since moving from Charlton in the summer. It is his skill, his quick feet and vision, that attracted boss Steven Gerrard to him. Against Livingston on Sunday, he gave another insight into his talent and potential as a lovely finish from the edge of the box capped a fine performance and set Rangers on their way to victory.
But Aribo wants to have another side to his game. He is capable of passing teams off the park and easing by opposition players, but he knows he must have a different approach at times to thrive and survive in the Premiership.
The head wound he received on his last trip to the Tony Macaroni Arena was an eye-opening experience for Aribo and Gerrard was critical in the aftermath of the incident that left his man requiring 20 stitches.It has only been a few short weeks since that clash, but Aribo showed on Sunday that he has already learned and improved since then as he produced a superb showing in a 2-0 victory.
“He wanted me to be a beast and that is what I wanted to go out there and do,” Aribo said of the pre-match message from his manager. “I am happy that I was able to put in a good performance and the team were able to get a good result. “I would say it is about making your opponent not want to play against you and dread playing against you because you are going to be in their face off the ball. It is that, really.
“It (Scottish football) is very physical and I have been learning that. So, moving forward, I have to be able to match what I am going to get from the opposition and be nasty to play against as well. “It is something that I am learning myself that I have to improve on. Some may say that I am a bit nice but I want to be the nastiest player that I can be as well as being good on the ball and being technical.
“The only difference is that I was a young boy playing for Staines so everyone is going to be physical compared to me. I was pretty small and skinny.” Aribo now has two very different memories to take away from his trips to the Tony Macaroni Arena. Thankfully for Rangers, both matches have been won.
The 23-year-old was instrumental in this crucial Premiership success. His opener ended a neat attacking move involving Alfredo Morelos and Scott Arfield and it was the Colombian that made sure of the points after the break. Aribo said: “It was an amazing feeling to get my first goal in the Scottish league. I am just relieved I was able to get it
“I had that [last game] in the back of my mind but I am just happy that I was able to get through the 90 minutes after what happened the last time. I am happy with that. You always have the fear the first time you go to header the ball but I have headed it in training so I was over that quickly.
“I wasn’t thinking too heavily on it, but it is always in the back of your mind. I wanted to put a stamp on the game. I am thankful I could do that. “I was a bit fuming that not much more was given on the incident. But you have got to move on, it has gone, it has happened.”
Boss Gerrard was full of praise for the performance that Aribo put in against Livingston, and also the way he has reacted to missing out on a starting jersey at times this term. The Nigerian international has heard all the noise since he made his move to Ibrox. His focus has always been on doing what it is best for himself and for Rangers.
Aribo said: “It was the right move for me, I am happy that I made this move and I want to keep improving and progressing under the gaffer and playing for this wonderful club. “I came here to play in Europe and to win the title so I am happy to be pushing. I just want to keep pushing. “I don’t look at what other people say. Everyone has got their opinions but they are not important to me.”
• Culled from heraldscotland.com.