The rise of James Sands from the most abused member of the squad a month or two ago to a player fans are finally seeing for what he actually is is a real feelgood story and something the American richly deserves.
After bailing Rangers out of repeated personnel issues and being a major reason the side actually got to the group stage of the Champions League at all, Sands was repeatedly on the end of major criticism and insults from most fans, convinced that he wasn’t up to the standard needed.
But the display v Aberdeen seems to have changed that and earned him a tonne of goodwill, goodwill he should have had long ago.
Now, some supporters are trying to justify their earlier opinions by suggesting he’s better in midfield, but the reality is this is a thin argument, because we recall similar positive reactions following his performance v Union Saint, when he was in defence, and earned MOTM.
No, supporters have generally thrived on focusing on any errors he made, as a young learning defender, and often ignoring the good he’s done, regardless of where he was playing on the pitch.
But this seems to have changed as of the Aberdeen performance, when he complimented John Lundstram perfectly, playing his usual match, but finally being recognised for the positive and not being criticised for the negative, as the whole team enjoyed a good performance.
Where is his best slot? He doesn’t have one. Fans in the UK unfamiliar with the US college system may be unaware how sports work there, and young players learn more than one way of playing their sport, more than one position, and generally while a player may have a preferred slot, they will learn several, in order for versatility.
And Sands, while overall a defensive player, is exactly that – defensive midfield, defender, with a hint of CM and even FB in there too. Yes, he’s played those slots as well at New York so don’t even consider he’s not versatile.
Indeed, at New York, the number of times he played CB and DM were – 34 each. For his country? Almost entirely as CB.
So don’t even remotely consider the idea he’s a natural this or that – Sands can do both, and both very well indeed. One red card doesn’t change he’s more than comfortable at CB, and just because Rangers fans have become some of the most hostile supporters towards some of our own players doesn’t change that.
Well done James.