James Sands lifts lid on how Rangers spell ended and Celtic dinner date 'lesson'
The US international left the Ibrox club on March 1 after reaching a mutual agreement with manager Michael Beale over the early termination of his loan move from New York City FC. Sands was signed under Giovanni van Bronckhorst in January last year, but found his game-time more limited following the Dutchman's sacking in November.
Back in September, just hours after a 4-0 defeat at Parkhead, Sands and Rangers teammate Malik Tillman were spotted with Celtic defender and international colleague Cameron Carter-VIckers at the Blythswood Hotel in Glasgow.
Also at the table was USA national team boss Gregg Berhalter, who had arranged to meet the trio after watching them in action earlier in the day. The picture was published online and a number of Rangers fans took offence to their players socialising with a rival in the aftermatch of such a chastening Old Firm defeat.
One said: "If that’s tonight then chase them. Don’t care that they have done for us this season, that’s a kick in the guts to every Rangers fan."
Now back playing in the MLS in his homeland, Sands reflected on the fall-out from the controversial dinner date.
"It's not easy moments," he told On Frame. "I lived in a good area but once you go into the city centre after you lose the game, it's not easy. There was one game where we lost to Celtic and Gregg Berhalter was over watching and he asked me, Malik and Carter-Vickers (for dinner).
"That sort of thing did not go down well with the fans. But that is the sort of thing you learn from, I left all the green at home, it's great being in that city as they love their teams."
Sands played regularly under Van Bronckhorst but started just three matches under Beale and he admitted that it was the change of managers that was behind his early depature from Ibrox.
"Definitey. A big reason in the first place why I went to Rangers was Giovanni van Bronckhorst. He was a coach I was aware of and I was familiar with his style of play, which I thought really suited me.
"The first six months I was there was just getting used to a new country and a new team. The start of this season I played a lot more consistently and was involved in pretty much every game, then the club let Gio go and brought in Michael Beale.
"He is a really good coach and a lot of the guys had previous experience with him, so I felt a bit behind everyone at the start. He just had a different approach to the game which maybe didn't suit me.
"I did (get honest feedback from Beale). He said he really liked me as a player and one of the first sit-downs I had with him, he said when he looks at new players, he likes to ask other player how they feel about that person and what he said to me was the team really respected you as a player and someone he had no problem putting on.
"But at the end of the day there are guys he liked better and guys he had worked with before so it became harder to get games."
Sands was also aimed a dig at the standard of Scottish football, adding: "For sure, a lot of the games we played in Scotland were not high level but they asked different things of myself as a player than MLS games. You learn to attack a team that sits in a very low block, playing against a team playing long balls into the striker.
"Then you look at the 10-12 games in Europe that were extremely high level and the Old Firm games were too."
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