New York City FC

Ronny Deila calls on Rangers signing James Sands to replicate Scott Brown

Chris Smith
James Sands played a key role in NYCFC's MLS Cup triumph last year.
James Sands played a key role in NYCFC's MLS Cup triumph last year. / Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

New York City FC head coach Ronny Deila has called on midfielder James Sands to model his game on Celtic legend Scott Brown following his move to Rangers.

After winning MLS Cup in 2021, NYCFC's first-ever homegrown player completed an 18-month loan to the Scottish champions on Wednesday, with the Glasgow giants holding a purchase option at the end of the temporary deal.

Sands is Rangers' first signing under new boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who replaced Steven Gerrard in November.

If anyone is well-placed to advise Sands on how to get along in Glasgow, it's his former boss Deila, who led Rangers' arch-rivals Celtic to two Scottish Premiership titles and a League Cup between 2014 and 2016.

“Right now James is a typical American guy who does everything in a perfect way and is seen as a sweet boy," Deila told the Scottish Sun of the 21-year-old, who made 31 appearances for NYCFC across all competitions last season.

“If anything, he’s a little bit too nice. He needs to show some craziness out on the pitch. He needs to get his personality out there and really show people what he’s about. Sands is a very educated boy, but he shouldn’t think so much."

Deila compared Sands - who can also play center-back - to Arsenal and ex-Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney in terms of his attitude.

But he also called upon the seven-time United States international to take a few tips from Scott Brown, former Celtic captain and one of the most decorated players in club history.

For all his silky skills with the ball at his feet, Sands will need to adjust quickly to the physical nature of the Scottish top-flight.

“He reminds me of Kieran Tierney because of his attitude and professionalism, but he needs to become a little bit more like Scott Brown. He can do it. He can definitely do it," Deila continued.

"Rangers are signing a really top player. This is the right move for Sands. When he goes to Scotland, Rangers should be very pleased.

“I have talked to him about Scotland, about Celtic and Rangers and told him he couldn’t pick a more exciting place to play. At the same time, he will have to deal with the pressure which is 24/7.

“But he is ready for that, I am not worried at all for him. Playing for Rangers should bring out his personality more. That’s what I was pushing to get from him in the last year.”

Sands joins a Rangers side sitting six points clear of Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership table after 20 games.