WHEN Joe Aribo met his hero, not only was he not let down as is so often the case, his idol even offered him a job.
That any young English footballer looks up to Steven Gerrard is hardly a great surprise. Indeed, the Rangers manager’s standing has been a major factor in more than just this player moving north of the border.
Few enjoy such status but then few achieved what the former Liverpool and England captain did.
As for Aribo, Gerrard was and is the king.
The south Londoner, a well-spoken, likeable and even shy 22-year-old, still can’t quite believe that the man he now calls gaffer is the superstar he looked up to more than any other.
And the thing is, the new Rangers man is a Manchester United supporter. Well, he is from Croydon.
When asked about the fact Gerrard is now his manager, Aribo said: “It’s just massive. He’s a hero to me. Even still now it feels weird knowing that he’s my manager. Sometimes I get caught out and I’m daydreaming, and I’m thinking ‘wow’.
“Just knowing what he did in the game and how good he was. Every single bit of information he’s given me has helped me. People say don’t meet your heroes but it hasn’t been a disappointment at all.
“I don’t think I should say this but Manchester United as my team growing up. Butthe gaffer was a hero to me.. You can still have huge respect for players even though they won’t pay for your club.
“I just remember how good a midfielder he was. He just ticked so many boxes. In terms of the greatest players to play in the Premier League, he’s up the with the best. He’s already shown me different movements, getting into hard spaces in order to get the ball.
“There are just a lot of little things he’s already shown me. I can’t wait to keep learning.”
Aribo had a lot to think about after speaking to Gerrard. He has moved out of the family house but set up home close by so he could still be around those he loves and trusts.
This is something which can be forgotten when particularly a young player moves for the first time, and to another country and culture in many ways.
It’s not easy saying goodbye to family and friends but even that wasn’t going to deter him once the offer from Gerrard came in.
Aribo said: “I would say it was relatively easy. But I had a lot of things on my mind.
“Basically it was all about leaving my family. I am quite a home boy. But after I spoke with the gaffer I knew this was the best place for me to be.
“I’m a South London boy, I come from Croydon, I don’t have a big family but it’s a very intimate one. I had my own place down there but it wasn’t too far away. So, if I ever missed them I could always get home, it was only 45 minutes away.
“I am definitely missing the home cooking, that’s for sure. I’m pretty simple, I like my spaghetti bolognaise.
“I have a lot of friends at home and I am close with them, too. But it’s not too far away. It’s an easy journey up and a lot of my friends will come up.
“I’m not really fussed about it now. I know it’s a big step but I’ll be enjoying my football and that’s the most important thing, It won’t be much of a problem.
“I knew Glen Kamara and he has helped me settle in a lot and I am getting to know the boys.”
A lot has been said about Aribo’s move to Rangers, which he deals with elsewhere, but what is rarely recognised by English pundits is that when a player moves from the likes of Charlton to Ibrox, the differences are immediate and huge.
Lee Bower might not agree, but the truth is that playing for Rangers brings far more pressure compared to a team in League One, albeit a team which won promotion.
The midfielder has only been at the club for a few weeks but he’s already got used to a different set of standards required if he is to make the cut.
“It’s been good, I am enjoying it a lot, it’s pretty different to Charlton, to be honest,” he said. “It’s just the intensity of training. I now know I have to be on it every day.
“I’m enjoying it a lot. The one thing I’ve learned is how important it is to be on it at after day because you can’t just turn it on and off. You have to be on it 100 per cent of the time.
“It will make it easy for you at the weekend. Every game will feel easier if you’ve been on it. It means you don’t have to go from zero to 100.”
Aribo spoke more than once about winning which is going to be a rather big thing for Rangers this season.
He wasn’t asked about stopping nine in a row, that question will come along soon enough, but there is no hiding from the fact that this season is all about beating Celtic.
Aribo said: “I had the taste of success of getting promoted from League One. I feel I can help bring a winning mentality here. I just felt this was the best step for me.”
“Everyone wants to be a winner and that’s what I aspire to be. Knowing that there’s a title challenge is just added motivation for myself.
“I just want to take every week as it comes and try to get win after win after win and see where we end up at the end of the season.
“I love wining so if don’t win I won’t be happy. I will do all I can to make sure we win.”