Pundits urge Rangers to re-sign freed defender Leon Balogun after 2-2 draw with PSV in Champions League play-off

The Ibrox side had to make do without centre-backs John Souttar, Ben Davies and Filip Helander for the first-leg tie.
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Ally McCoist and Kenny Miller have urged Rangers to re-sign former defender Leon Balogun following their 2-2 draw with PSV Eindhoven last night.

The Nigeria international was released at the end of last season after the club opted against renewing his contract but the 34-year-old remains a free agent as he continues to search for a new employer.

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Balogun was a key part of the squad that reached the Europa League final and won the Scottish Cup last term, making 37 appearances across all competition.

Leon Balogun spent two successful seasons at Rangers.Leon Balogun spent two successful seasons at Rangers.
Leon Balogun spent two successful seasons at Rangers.

Manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst bolstered his defensive options in the summer with the signings of John Souttar from Hearts and Ben Davies from Liverpool, but both players were sidelined on Tuesday, as was long-term absentee Filip Helander.

It left the Dutchman with only one other option to call on - versatile defensive midfielder James Sands to partner Connor Goldson at centre-half.

Both of PSV’s goals came from corners as they secured a 2-2 draw heading into the second leg in Holland next Wednesday and Rangers legend McCoist has now questioned the decision to allow Balogun to leave.

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Balogun, who has been spotted watching on from the stands at Ibrox in recent games, was a towering presence and contributed several goals to the club’s European tally during his two-year spell.

McCoist argued that Van Bronckhorst should reconsider bringing him back while he is still available as he would make a difference at defending set-pieces.

Kenny Miller has joined Falkirk. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)Kenny Miller has joined Falkirk. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Kenny Miller has joined Falkirk. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Speaking as a pundit on BT Sport, he said: “A little bit concerning, I mentioned it before the first goal went in, that Rangers look small. PSV looked big and I thought set plays were going to be big.

“I’m just wondering, (James) Sands is not a natural centre-back, could Balogun have made a difference? He’s sitting up in the stand watching Rangers and I’m not too sure I’d have been letting him go.

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“Obviously there’s also a couple of the defender not fit. You look at Souttar’s injuries, and Helander’s injuries.

“I think the first set play that Rangers lost is a little bit unfortunate, it could’ve gone anywhere, but the second one is a concern.”

Fellow pundit and former Gers striker Kenny Miller proceeded to ask: “Is there a case to actually bring him back as he’s without a club?

McCoist responded: “Perhaps there is and it’s not with hindsight I say that. I was surprised to see him go, I really was.

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“I tell you what, we could have done with him tonight because he’s got height, he has a presence and he has scored goals in Europe.”

Antonio Colak netted his fourth goal in as many games to cancel out Ibrahim Sangare’s opener before Tom Lawrence fired Rangers in front thanks to a goalkeeper error from Walter Benitez.

However, PSV defender Armando Obispo headed home a 78th minute equaliser in off the underside of the crossbar to level the tie.

Meanwhile, Marvin Bartley has hit out at the harsh criticism aimed at Croatian frontman Colak following his first couple of appearances.

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Having failed to score in his first two starts, the summer signing was declared a “waste of time” by ex-Gers striker Mark Hateley in the aftermath of their 2-0 loss to Union Saint-Gilloise in Belgium.

Colak addressed the criticism aimed at him in the build-up to the PSV game and now Livingston assistant manager Bartley has lept to the player’s defence.

The Clyde1 Superscoreboard pundit was quick to shoot down Colak’s doubters for writing him off so quickly.

He wrote on Twitter: “Colak is no good though!! Some people make me laugh. Think an ex-player would have known better. Gave the player one game.”

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In response, a Celtic fan stated that similar had happened to Greek striker Giorgos Giakoumakis last year with injury setbacks hampering his start to life at Parkhead.

In a separate post responding to the fan, Bartley added: “Really annoys me mate! Like players should settle and hit the ground running from minute one.”

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