ON every occasion that a football club signs a player who is relatively unknown domestically, there is a collective search for reliable information. 

Journalists take a crash course in said player's career, fans seek out supporters of their former club. Hoping to form a picture of what this new arrival brings.

The discovery of a utility man normally brings trepidation. Doesn’t this mean the player fills in whenever necessary? Is he not good enough in any one given position?

In the past maybe so, but Rangers’ newly-arrived American James Sands is specifically versatile - his flexibility is a strength. 

Speaking to the club’s official website last night, Giovanni van Bronckhorst said this: “James is a player who I have been aware of for some time. His versatility was a big attraction and I’ve been impressed with his attitude and mentality in the games that I have watched recently.”

His versatility was an attractive signing trait – not a black mark against his name. It will fit nicely into the type of team van Bronckhorst is forming at Rangers.

The Dutchman is more proactive to the opposition than his predecessor. Can you imagine Steven Gerrard preparing two systems to face Dundee United at home as van Bronckhorst did recently?

Of course, different definitions can confuse and one man’s formation change is another’s individual variation.

There is no right or wrong. Gerrard’s Ibrox record was so good it didn’t lack from this proactivity to plan around the opposition until his final months in charge. 

READ MORE: James Sands scouted: What Rangers supporters can expect from Giovanni van Bronckhorst's first signing

However, as seen in the early stages of van Bronckhorst’s tenure, adapting game-upon-game keeps opponents guessing and derails their finely-tuned game plans.

Sands’ ability to play in defence or at the base of midfield will increase his new manager's options. The 21-year-old can drop in to form a back three and create a stronger structure from which to build play, or alternatively step out of the defence to play at the base of midfield.

Take this example from a New York derby last season. Sands’ (No.16) played in the centre of a back three for 60 minutes before moving to play as the No.6 in the second-half.

Rangers Review: New York City formations vs New York Red Bull (17/10/2021). New York City formations vs New York Red Bull (17/10/2021).

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This flexibility will afford van Bronckhorst numerous opportunities, especially when his team is trying to progress the ball from back to front. Dundee United managed to successfully limit Rangers' build-up last month at Ibrox, prompting van Bronckhorst to admit: "If we don’t find Kamara, we need other players to commit themselves."

Sands' profile addresses the need in this area of the pitch. Far from a player who can't nail down one position, his speciality is playing between them.