Dujon Sterling tipped for major Rangers run-in role as Alex Neil details star’s qualities and reveals his ‘perfect’ position

webnexttech | Dujon Sterling tipped for major Rangers run-in role as Alex Neil details star's qualities and reveals his 'perfect' position

Philippe Clement is convinced Dujon Sterling can play anywhere he likes for Rangers. But if Alex Neil had got his way, he wouldn’t be at Ibrox at all. The former Chelsea youngster joined Gers on a free transfer and has quickly emerged as a fans’ favourite down Edmiston Drive. And his new boss has most definitely been won over too by the 24-year-old’s ability to plug holes in a team that’s been repeatedly hollowed out by injury misfortune. So far, Sterling has found himself filling in right across the Light Blues’ backline as well as a number of midfield slots both central and wide. Clement even joked last month he’s willing to try the ex-England youth cap between the sticks in the unlikely event that keeper Jack Butland drops his standards. Neil, though, is deadly serious when he admits he was gutted to miss out on signing the utility ace permanently last summer. The former Hamilton gaffer was the man who recruited Sterling on loan for his old side Stoke at the start of last season and hoped to convince Sterling to stay put with the Potters when his Stamford Bridge deal expired. “We wanted to sign him ourselves,” Neil revealed to Record Sport. “We tried before he went to Rangers but the lure of European football and the opportunity to win prizes was a lot for him. I took him to Stoke last year and he was excellent for us. Physically he’s top notch and defensively too he’s probably one of the best I’ve had. “I’m surprised he’s been playing midfield a lot for Rangers though. I think he did that when he was a kid but we predominantly used him as a right back or at left-back. We even used him at centre-back because he’s quick and powerful. But I’m not surprised to see that he’s broken his way into the Rangers team because I do have such a high opinion of him. “I always expected him to find his way in somewhere because he has great physical qualities and I’d expect that in the Scottish Premiership, he’d certainly be one of the best in that regard. He’s a good footballer, Dujon. He’s been at Chelsea since he was a kid, he’s had a lot of loan moves too, so he’s had a good footballing education. “I think he’d been at Blackpool, Wigan before coming to us at Stoke, so he’s well-versed in terms of playing at a couple of different levels and at a few different clubs. Technically he’s good as well – he’s just a good all-round player.” It was Michael Beale who left Neil disappointed when the former Ibrox boss won the chase to sign Sterling with an offer of a four-year deal. The Londoner’s plan was for Sterling to challenge skipper Tavernier for the right-back slot where he’d spent the majority of his early career playing. But Neil admits that might be the hardest of all the positions he’s covered this season to get a regular game given he’s up against a goalscoring freak whose Ibrox goal tally now stands at 122. “The biggest difficulty for Dujon is trying to get that right-back position at Ibrox from Tavernier given how many goals the captain offers their team,” said Neil, who parted way with Stoke in December. “If Tavernier is not the right-back, I think Dujon would be a perfect fit in there. There’s no doubt about that. The problem is that with Tav, he’s the captain for a start so he’s an influence in the changing room. “But also the number of goals he scores. You just can’t remove them from your team. Like any good player, however, Dujon will adapt in the meantime and will find himself a slot where he can be affective and show that he’s got other stings to his bow. Clement will try to get as many of his best players on the pitch as he can, and the way upon has been performing, he’s certainly been one of them.” Like Clement, Neil had no issue slotting a round peg into a square hole if it would help bend the opposition out of shape. He explained: “The biggest thing I always felt about Dujon was that if you played him up against somebody, if you asked him to deal with an individual, then that player would be in for a tough game because he can run, he can pass, he can tackle. “He’s got all that aspects you’d want. If we had a player in the opposition team who we felt would cause us a problem, Dujon dealt with him. That’s how we felt about him. He could just nullify threats because you can’t get away from him. He’s a type of defender that you need to beat two or three times to get passed him. He was excellent. One v one against any opponent last year, he came out on the right side of it.” Clement was shocked to learn after his October appointment that Sterling had made it into Beale’s side more often. But when the change of management offered an opportunity, he certainly took it. “With the modern-day game, the one thing that is absolutely certain is that things change at clubs quite quickly,” added Neil. “Whether that’s you as a player moving on or the coach is changed. It’s how you react to that change that defines your period at that club. And Dujon has clearly had a good reaction to the new manager coming in and has now found himself in the team as a regular. Watching a few of Rangers’ recent games, I’ve thought he’s been one of their better players and I think the manager will feel the same. I won’t be surprised if he kicks on now and finishes the season strongly.”

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