DUJON Sterling has spent his free time studying You Tube clips of football’s greatest midfielders in action since being asked to move into the middle of the park by Rangers manager Philippe Clement due to a raft of injuries.

“I have started trying to see what they do,” the full-back said at Ibrox earlier this week as he prepared for the cinch Premiership match against Motherwell at Fir Park this afternoon.

“I am just trying to learn even though maybe 10 games down the line I might not play there. I still need to learn it now. It will help me if he does need to slot me back in there. I will be able to do the job.”

His homework is clearly having the desired effect. Sterling has performed superbly in the absence of Jose Cifuentes, Ryan Jack, Nicolas Raskin and John Lundstram in recent weeks. He was a richly-deserved winner of the Man of the Match award in the Viaplay Cup final win over Aberdeen at Hampden last Sunday.

The Herald: But the Englishman also received a good grounding in central midfield when he was starting out in the professional game at Chelsea. His youth coaches at Stamford Bridge made sure he familiarised himself in every outfield position in the side as a youngster. He also marvelled at the intelligence, physicality and technical expertise of Ghanian great Michael Essien at close quarters.

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"I'm learning to play in midfield day by day,” he said. “When he (Clement) chucked me in there against Dundee, that was the first time I'd ever played there. I'd never even trained there once in the senior game. I'm going onto the training pitch trying to learn every day, watching guys like Lunny as well who is a good example to follow.

"But when I was at Chelsea when I was younger, I was taught to play in every position. I've been trying to think back to then and bring that into my game now. Adi Viveash and Joe Edwards were the main two influences. When I was younger I used to play up quite a few age groups. They taught me to play in different positions and trusted me to do that. 

“Michael Essien and Yaya Toure are the two main midfielders I admire. Essien because he was at Chelsea when I was there and I used to go to games and watch him all the time and in training and stuff. Toure was one of the best midfielders in the Premier League.”

Sterling continued: "Because we're lacking numbers in midfield at the moment, it's definitely helping that I can go in there and help out. Hopefully as the season goes on I'll continue to grow into a better player there.

“When you are playing at right back or left back all you have on the outside is the touchline whereas now I am in midfield I basically do a 360 and scan all the time to see who is over my shoulder. As soon as I got that, I was able to just play the game.

"The manager has trusted me because he sees what I can do in training. I can win the ball back easily, I can dribble past players and drive with the ball. I can make the right decisions, when to press forward and when to hold. He trusts I can translate that into games and it's going well because we haven't lost yet and we're playing really well."

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They certainly are. Sterling came on and helped Rangers to beat Real Betis in Seville, top their Europa League group and qualify for the last 16 of that competition last week. He then produced an outstanding performance in the Viaplay Cup decider a few days later.

The Herald: "The last couple of weeks have been really good,” he said. “Betis was a tough place to go, especially as they hadn't lost there all year and we'd never won in Spain. We went there and got the job done and then it was straight on to the cup final.

"That was one of the best days of my life. That was my first silverware as a professional and it was so special to do it with a great bunch of lads.

“At the time I didn't even realise I'd won Man of the Match. It's great to win it, but my focus has just been on the next game and then the game after that. I don't let it get to my head. I'm just going to keep trying to improve."

The summer signing’s favoured position remains right back. However, he appreciates the form shown by Rangers captain James Tavernier, who scored the winner against Aberdeen to end a 12 year barren run in the League Cup, this term ensures his countryman is an automatic selection. 

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"It's a credit to Tav,” he said. “Even though I'm not training at right back just now, I'm still learning from him every day. He's been doing so well for a long time and I'm lucky to have him to look up to.

“You never know with football. I know if he needs me to do a job for the last 10 minutes at right back, I can do that again.

“It was tough not playing earlier this season, but I knew my chance would come. I just had to keep my head down and keep working. Now I am starting games. I am not in the position everyone thought I would be in, but it is working.”

Sterling is loving life in Govan at the moment and is optimistic that more good times lie ahead in the second half of the 2023/24 campaign.

“You can see when we come in for training every day that everyone is in a happier place,” he said. “There are good spirits all around the building. Hopefully it just continues. Winning the trophy means we are hungry for more trophies by the end of the season. We want to rack up more trophies. Now we have one, but the ambition is to get more.”

The Herald: