Rangers star Matt Polster could find himself pushed into a midfield role following an injury to Ryan Jack and James Tavernier’s return to fitness – and it could be a perfect fit for the American.
Despite being widely viewed as a right-back, Polster spent the early part of his career playing as a holding midfielder for Chicago Fire before being move by manager Veljko Paunovic.
After being drafted seventh by the Fire in 2015, the SIU-Edwardsville alum worked his way into the side – then managed by Frank Yallop – and cemented himself as the anchor in the midfield trio as he made 20 league appearances in midfield.
His consistent performances for Yallop’s under-achieving side won praise from fans and the arrival of Serbia’s U20 FIFA World Cup-winning coach Paunovic ahead of the 2016 season saw Polster further cement his place in the defensive midfield role.
Despite his relative inexperience, Paunovic even saw enough in Polster to hand him the captain’s armband in some of the first games of his reign as manager.
Paunovic’s arrival as manager also saw a huge turnover in players and would eventually see a fairly thin midfield bolstered by the additions of MLS legend Dax McCarty and Brazilian midfielder Juninho join the Men in Red.
Polster had by this point, at the beginning of 2017, only played a handful of games at right-back, but the next arrival at the club would change that considerably.
After the opening few games of the 2017 season, the Fire lured German icon Bastian Schweinsteiger from Manchester United, immediately putting Polster in direct competition with the World Cup winner.
Paunovic instead made Polster his first-choice right-back and looked to make the most of Polster’s athleticism, determination and solid technical attributes to support his side’s attack down the right.
The addition of some quality players saw the Fire reach the playoffs for the first time in five years, losing out to New York Red Bulls, as Polster’s contribution to the team played a key role in their minor success.
With a couple of seasons already under his belt, the move to right-back seemed to really help improve Polster’s awareness of how the game is playing out around him and has turned him into a far more rounded player.
The American also had the benefit of working alongside a true great in that position in Schweinsteiger as the German played out the final days of his career in the Windy City (or, technically the suburban village of Bridgeview, for any Fire fans who might read this) and helped grow the profile of the Second City’s only professional club.
2018 would turn into a disaster for Polster though as what was originally supposed to be a relatively minor injury, turned out to be a virtual season-ender just weeks into the new campaign.
Polster would end up leaving the Fire at the end of 2018 before joining Rangers on trial and many fans would still love to see him return to the newly-rebranded Chicago Fire FC at Soldier Field.
After Gerrard hinted that Polster could make a move into the Rangers midfield while Ryan Jack is sidelined, the 26-year-old has all the attributes to step into the midfield and impress.
He’s already got a good background in the position from time with the Fire, and having already worked alongside one world-class midfielder in Schweinsteiger and now being coached by another in Steven Gerrard he has the ideal mentor to help him improve.
Jack is likely only to miss a few games at best, but with others in the usual midfield trio of Steven Davis, Glen Kamara and Jack also struggling to impress, Polster could find himself pushing for an extended run in the starting XI – and he’s got everything he needs to impress.