Calvin Bassey in Rangers ‘no giving in’ vow as he insists stars are desperate to atone for Celtic clash misery

The smile gives him away.

Calvin Bassey – and Rangers for that matter – may have had more enjoyable weeks but there’s something about his demeanor which shows an infectious enthusiasm for getting on with the job.

It’s not that he’s not hurting following the derby defeat which has all but ended his side’s title defence. Make no mistake, Bassey is feeling it right.

On top of that, as an international new boy, he’s also still coming to terms with Nigeria’s 1-1 draw at home to Ghana which wrecked his hopes of playing in the World Cup later this year.

So it’s little wonder then that his trademark grin was beaming a little less brightly than normal on Wednesday.

In fact, for once the 22-year-old put on his serious face to field questions from the media, shortly before boarding the team flight to Braga, where Rangers will be given an instant shot at redemption tonight in the Europa League quarter-finals .

And Bassey is already itching to get on with it.

“Competitions are always changing and there is a lot of travelling,” he said on Wednesday before hauling his luggage onto the team bus for the short ride from Auchenhowie to Glasgow Airport.

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“Yes, it is demanding on you physically and mentally but this is the position I have always wanted to be in. I have always wanted to play week in week out, I wanted to play in internationals and European competitions.

“So I can’t get to this stage now and give up, give in or feel sorry for myself. I have just got to take each game as it comes and try to give the best performance I can give, no matter where I am playing.”

Those eyes are lighting up again even as the words are leaving his mouth.

Bassey has wanted to be involved at this level for just about as long as he can remember. It’s precisely why he made the decision to leave the luxury and comfort of Leicester City’s academy as a raw 20-year-old to take on this challenge in the first place, even though boss Brendan Rodgers was in no rush to see him leave.

He then played second fiddle to first-choice left-back Borna Barisic, biding his time until making a big breakthrough this season and nailing down the Croat’s position for himself.

While some of his team-mates appear to have convinced themselves they have achieved as much as they ever can in Glasgow, or at least in Scotland’s domestic competitions, Bassey gives off a different impression.

It has seemed throughout this roller coaster campaign as if one or two of these players have been more focused on showing themselves on Thursday nights on the European stage where, almost without fail they have managed to excel.

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Calvin Bassey battles with Callum McGregor

The two-legged routing of Borussia Dortmund to qualify for the last 16 of this tournament has been, without question, the high watermark of their season.

But they backed it up by blowing Red Star Belgrade aside to make it this far, within two more games of a semi-final.

And Bassey is like a kid in a sweetie shop. Asked to imagine how it might feel to actually go on from here to win the whole thing, the big man battled hard not to become completely overexcited.

He said: “It would be good – it would be amazing. It would be an amazing achievement.

“Look, boys dream of playing in the Europa League and Champions League and to get this far, you can’t really put it into words.

“I was overwhelmed when it happened. Obviously we played well and we just want to keep the form going to reach new
boundaries. We’re just trying to better ourselves and give good performances.”

The sight of Rangers’ players on their knees following Sunday’s Old Firm defeat will have done little to dampen Braga’s enthusiasm.

But Bassey is determined to play his part in a Rangers bounce back.

He added: “Obviously you could see on the pitch that we weren’t happy but, as the boss said, we have got to put it behind us and move forward.

“We have got big games coming up and we believe that it is not over until it is over. We still have a lot to play for and a lot to fight for.

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“We will put it all behind us and we are just focusing on the Braga game and making sure that we don’t dwell on it too much so that it affects our performance against them.

“Of course Braga are a good team but we have got this far and we have hopes of getting further.

“As I say, we know that they are a good team and we know that we will have to be at our best.”

Bassey was also asked – albeit in a somewhat clunky fashion – if Rangers’ players feel some sort of onus to make it up to their fans following Sunday’s crushing disappointment.

He replied: “Of course, it would mean a lot to put a smile back on their faces.

“They have been with us through the highs and lows of the season and we just want to give them another high.

“It would be a confidence booster for all of us as well.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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