JAMES SANDS has made his name and shone in the bright lights of New York. Now he wants to conquer Europe.

His first stop will be Glasgow. An 18-month loan deal with Rangers sees Sands embark on the next stage of his career, and he has plotted a path that will allow him to realise his ambitions and potential on the other side of the Atlantic.

Four years ago, Sands became the first homegrown player to appear for New York City as he made his debut – as a substitute for Andrea Pirlo – in a draw with Colorado Rapids. That was his big break, and he has never looked back in an arena of iconic names and high rollers.

It was under the guidance of Ronny Deila, the former Celtic manager, that he would taste success as City were crowned MLS Cup champions last month. That will prove to be Sands’ final act Stateside.

His move to Ibrox offers opportunity for the 21-year-old. It is one that John Hackworth, his mentor at international level and during a loan stint at Louisville City, is confident Sands will make the most of he aims to star on the European stage.

“James is ambitious,” Hackworth told Herald and Times Sport. “He has former team-mates that he is very close to that have gone on to play in Europe and been very successful there and I think James, very quietly, understands that it is the necessary step for him to reach his very lofty goals.

“I know him and his family very well and he doesn’t rest on what he did yesterday. He is going to constantly challenge himself to get better, so I think he sees the step of going to Rangers as the best opportunity for him to play in European football.

“From my understanding, he had a lot of choices. He has said ‘I am going to go there and it is going to challenge me in all the right ways. I am ready for it’.

“From my perspective, playing in the Scottish Premiership is a step up, but he did have top Bundesliga teams after him. James, just like he is on the field, is very thoughtful and intentional about his decisions in his career.

“Clearly, for him, he thinks this is the right choice. I do think it is a little bit of a coup for Rangers to pull it off because, right, wrong or indifferent, they beat off clubs that in the soccer world you would think compete at a higher level.”

There are few figures that have played as important a role in Sands’ development as Hackworth. The Florida-born coach has held several roles within the US international setup, is a former Major League Soccer boss and is now Director of Coaching at St. Louis City.

The rise and rise of Sands is no surprise to the 51-year-old. He has seen the versatile operator establish himself in America and is now excited to watch on as his former protégé develops under the tutelage of Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

“First of all, I would say that Rangers are getting a really good, young American player, and a very intelligent one,” Hackworth said.

“He is a player that makes really good decisions based on what he is reading in the game. My personal opinion is that when you have players like that, they often exceed your expectations in terms of their ability.

“From the first time I ever saw James, he has continued to do that every step along the way. I first had him as an Under-15 player and we were at a camp in England. We were at St George’s Park and the first time I saw him I knew he was a really technically sound player, but he had something different upstairs.

“That is his ability to make decisions, read the game and make adjustments that other players at his age just weren’t able to do.”

The arrival of Sands at Ibrox and the departure of Nathan Patterson to Everton may have come in the same week but the respective deals are not linked. One is not a direct replacement for the other.

The American internationalist is capable of filling in at right-back if required. It is in the middle of the park where he is more adept, however, and that is where Van Bronckhorst sees him fitting into his Rangers blueprint after making his first move of the January window.

“His versatility is the perfect example of that intelligence,” Hackworth said. “I first saw him as a holding midfielder. We had a player that picked up an injury and I moved him to centre-back and he was able to go back and forth no problem at all.

“He played for me in the World Cup at Under-17 level as a both a centre-back and as a holding midfielder and he has continued to do the same thing at New York City and with the US Men’s National Team.

“You can’t make that kind of adjustment unless your skillset is such that your anticipation, your initiative, is high, but also your ability on the ball. You have to be comfortable.

“It is different, it is not simple. When you move from centre-back into midfield, all of a sudden things are 360 degrees around you and it is a very different process for a player.”

Sands may be something of an unknown quantity to many Rangers supporters but he has been earmarked as a potential recruit for the champions for some time. A loan deal suits all parties at present as Van Bronckhorst aims to defend the Premiership title.

Sands has international honours and individual accolades on his burgeoning CV. The pursuit of silverware in Scotland will motivate a driven, determined individual.

Hackworth said: “He is a very soft-spoken person, very respectful, very professional. He is not the guy that is going to come in and yell, he is not the guy that is going to be the loud person in the locker room.

“From a leadership point of view, that is not his style either. But what is really important to him is that his actions, whether he is on the field, at training or in the locker room, speak for him.

“He is very focused, very concentrated and he will give his best whether you are playing a Rondo before training starts or whether you are in a big derby, which for Rangers will be the one against Celtic obviously. He is going to have the same approach, he is going to follow his process of what he does and how he does it best.

“Even as his coach, I would see that he is overly vocal or the loudest, but when he does say something and does communicate it is really clear what he is trying to do. I think his team-mates and his coaches build a lot of trust around the way he does things.”