Livingston midfielder Scott Robinson admits he will never forget how Marius Zaliukas looked out for him during his formative years at Hearts.
Robinson was left devastated by the tragic news that the Tynecastle club’s 2012 Scottish Cup-winning captain passed away on Saturday at the age of 36 following a battle with Motor Neurone Disease.
The Lions playmaker still vividly remembers how the Lithuanian took him under his wing when he first broke into the team in 2008 as Robinson became the youngest player to make his debut for the Gorgie side.
Now 28, Robinson admits he will forever be grateful to the one-time Rangers and Leeds United player for being there for him.
Speaking ahead of Friday evening’s clash at Ross County, Robinson said: “It’s just so sad. I played with him for years and he was a really nice guy.
“I can’t thank him enough for what he did for me when I first broke into the Hearts team at 16, 17 years old.
“As a young boy coming through you need someone to speak to you, to talk you through it, keep you on the right track and make you feel welcome as well.
“I remember being really nervous at first. He passed on a lot and helped me out so many times and that’s the kind of thing I would look to do myself with any young player here.
“A lot of the Lithuanian guys stuck together but he wasn’t like that, he was actually more like one of the Scottish lads.
“He would mix with us and he was always getting involved in stuff.
“He’ll rightly go down as a Hears legend as the captain who lifted the Scottish Cup but he was a really good player as well. He was one of our best players that season.
“Jason (Holt) and I were speaking about it earlier because he was at Hearts too.
“It shows you how short life is in general, you never know quite what is around the corner.
“It’s horrible. I’m going to put some flowers down later on to pay my respects.”
Zaliukas was a larger than life character off the pitch and Robinson admits the players would tease him over his association then Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov, who oversaw the arrival of countless Lithuanian players.
He added: “Romanov would hold meetings with us and Marius would always get stick from the rest of the boys about being his favourite son.
“Then he’d say: ‘You better watch or daddy Romanov will sack you!’ He’ll be missed.
“He came across as quiet on the surface, but he wasn’t like that behind closed doors. He was a real character.
“He was one of our main leaders.”