During the first half of the season, Joe Aribo’s craft and consistency was a key factor as Rangers established a six-point lead at the top of the Premiership table.
The 25-year-old midfielder’s outstanding form saw him being widely tipped as a potential Player of the Year in Scottish football.
He also attracted interest from a host of English Premier League clubs.
But just as Rangers have stalled since the winter break, allowing their advantage over Celtic in the title race to turn into a three-point deficit, so has Aribo struggled to recapture his optimum performance levels after representing Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations Finals in Cameroon in January.
The reigning champions will clearly need Aribo and others to be at their best over the closing nine games of the Premiership campaign if they are to retain their crown and the former Charlton Athletic man is ready to meet the challenge.
“It’s nice to have (the tension of a tight title race) because it is a moment for the big players to step up,” said Aribo ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Aberdeen at Ibrox.
“That’s what we need. We need big characters in the dressing room. In the next games coming up, we hope that we’ll be there and we’ll get three points. That’s what we want from every single match that we play in.
“For me personally, I wanted to get more numbers in terms of goals and assists (last month). I’ve not been at my best compared to how I was before I left for the internationals.
“In football, you have these dips in form in your season but hopefully I can move past that and, come tomorrow, see a strong performance and move forward from that.
“I just need to work my hardest to get back into form and that’s what I’m doing. Every single day, I want to be my best when I’m on the pitch so that’s what I’m hoping to do.
“Of course the attackers here want to get numbers on the board, but the most important thing is the three points. If it’s 1-0, if it’s 2-1, as long as we’re getting the three points, that’s the main thing.”