Rangers captain Lee Wallace was one of a group of players who were in mourning at the weekend following the murder of their former team-mate, Arnold Peralta.
Of the players who fought back to snatch a 2-2 draw with Morton at Ibrox on Saturday, Kenny Miller, Dean Shiels, Nicky Clark and Wallace himself had shared a dressing room with Peralta during his 18 months in Glasgow.
He was a great lad… we have all lost a real gentleman and a superstar… our thoughts go to Arnold’s family at this horrific timeArnold Peralta
The 26-year-old Honduras World Cup midfielder, who had returned home in January to play for Olimpia, had been gunned down by assassins as he bought baby clothes in a shopping mall in La Ceiba.
Wallace had hoped to dedicate a victory over Morton to Peralta’s memory, but now he believes it would be more fitting to go on and win the Championship for him.
“Absolutely, definitely,” he said. “It would be great now if we could win the league and think about Arnold as a Rangers player and one of us.
“If we win the league I think it’s a time we’ll look back on, an inspiration and motivation.”
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Those responsible for the drive-by shooting have yet to be apprehended and Wallace, who regarded Peralta as a friend, was moved by the news.
“It was a real shock to us all,” he said. “We have five or six lads in our dressing room who played with Arnold during the 18 months he was with Rangers.
“It took him time to get going on a football side, but he was a great lad. He was learning English and was a really good guy in our changing room.
“He was really close to a couple of the other foreign lads and big friends with Emilio Izaguirre at Celtic and also Jorge Claros at Hibs.
“It was just shocking to hear what had happened and Saturday was an emotional day for everybody.
“Looking at the Morton game, it was disappointing to drop two points for the fans but it was also disappointing we weren’t able to get Arnold the win and maybe dedicate that game to him. I think I can speak on behalf of the club and all the players – the ones who played with Arnold and the others – that our thoughts go to Arnold’s family at this horrific time.
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“It puts things into perspective. At this time of year he should be celebrating his first Christmas with his new daughter [three-month-old Camilla] and the rest of his family. Instead, we’ve all lost a real gentleman and a superstar.”
Given that context, it was perhaps fitting that the post-mortem conducted by Wallace and Miller, the two most senior players at Ibrox, following the disappointing display against Morton, was low key, with rational debate preferred to finger-pointing.
“We spoke in the dressing room after the Morton game and Kenny and myself had a bit to say,” he said. It wasn’t a ranting and raving, it was conducted in the style of the manager and Davie Weir. It was a quiet, coached way of doing things. That’s their style and that’s how we have to be as players.
“We sat and chatted and it was good. It was nice to talk. It wasn’t a crisis meeting, just a general talk, which we do after every single game. On this occasion it was a bit longer because of the result and because we dropped below our standards.
“It was just a case of reiterating the standards we should set, not just week-in, week-out but day-in and day-out.
“We are very much 24/7 footballers – and professionals for that matter. It’s not just when you’re in at training or at Ibrox, it’s all the time. It’s about how well you look after yourself. These are things the manager has instilled since the moment he came into the club. It’s about making sure cannot become complacent in any shape or form.
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“I don’t think it was the case that we were complacent on Saturday, we just dropped below certain levels, conceding two poor goals. We’ll look to move on now, having analysed the game.
“We’ll train hard on Tuesday, rest Wednesday and then, by Thursday and Friday, we’ll be ready to go again.”
It is hardly surprising that opposing teams, assembled on a fraction of the budget available to Mark Warburton, choose to stifle Rangers by deploying their teams in two rigid banks of four. It has ever been thus and managers and players at Ibrox have been expected to deal with it.
Wallace, who was signed from Hearts for £1.5m by Ally McCoist in the pre-administration and liquidation summer of 2011, has known little else during his time at the club but admits that others are still adjusting to the demands being placed on them.
“Way back, when I first signed and we were who we were then, it was pretty much the same – teams would come to Ibrox with that kind of gameplan,” he said.
“Opposing sides are showing us more respect compared to last season and that’s probably because of how well we’ve started.
“We won’t grumble about it. We’re aware of it and it’s about how we find ways through that and beat a deeper-defending team.
“There is no doubt that we’d have taken being in top spot at this stage of the season and we’re in good shape.”