One of the big topics recently has of course been James Sands’ omission from the USA squad. Abused and praised in equal measure, the USA international has become quite the central figure for fans’ frustrations and irritations this season, with accusations about his ability spread far and wide.
So, without further ado, Ibrox Noise produces our definitive James Sands guide, and you are free, as our valued readers, to do what you like with it.
Sands was a curious addition – no one knew him, just a little of his CV, which was exclusively MLS at that point. He was brought in on an 18-month loan and all we really knew based on Googling him was he was a midfielder capable of deputising in defence.
In short, he was a flexible auxiliary man, a valuable utility player who managers tend to love due to the options.
So he began life at Ibrox welcomed by fans unconditionally as this young boy made his way into the big bad world of European football, and found himself selected for midfield and making very little impression there for the Famous. He was tidy but innocuous.
And that’s all we could really say about him.
It was this season with the retention of Connor Goldson that Gio made a change. Having freed Leon Balogun (injury issues) and Niko Katic (not Gio’s kind of defender) not to mention realising quickly that new addition John Souttar was struggling and fellow newbie Ben Davies wasn’t fit, Gio, wanting a left-footed CB, ‘temporarily’ went with using Sands there in his auxiliary position.
And this is where the gnashing of teeth by fans started.
Supporters keep arguing Sands isn’t a defender, but he is, sorry, but he is. He’s the same kind of modern defender as many defensively-minded midfielders are – the kind who play in both slot with comfort.
Is he good enough there? Long term we would agree we need a big strong commanding centre half, as the fans cry out for, but sorry, Gio doesn’t like those.
He likes ball players, not hammer throwers. Ibrox Noise’s Derek has discussed the ‘human cannonball’ that was Niko, but Gio got rid because of his style.
Sands isn’t big or commanding, and his stats as a defender are completely average – but he fits the profile of what Gio wants at the back. Except he’s right footed which right now left footed Ben Davies doesn’t seem ready to fit in on.
We don’t think Sands is going to be long term, but for now, while he’s fit and giving everything he has, he deserves support.
Whether Davies will be any better when he finally starts to play only time will tell.