It was only a couple of months ago where I was saying here that John Lundstram’s Rangers career was over.
The call followed a pre-season in which the midfielder struggled to make a pass the length of himself.
Truth be told, it had became something of a recurrence for Lundstram over the year or so to that point, as he had looked incapable of recapturing the form that made him the lynchpin of the 2022 run to the Europa League final.
At times, it seems as though the Scouser was more interested in playing safe than being the driving force that put the likes of Dortmund and Leipzig to the sword.
Which begs the question; what has changed in less than a week to bring about this return to form?
In those two games, there has been a noticeably difference in how Lundstram has used the ball in possession.
So often when he plays, he is usually the player who has the most time on the ball outwith the defence. However, so often in the last year, his used of the football has been slow and, dare I say it, safe as his sole focus was keeping the ball in nothing areas instead of doing something risky.
What’s noticeable in the last two games is how he’s looked the main player trying to drag the team forward, which has had different effects on those around him, as it lifted his team mates against Betis but less so against Motherwell.
There also appears to be a bit more bit and energy about him. Rumours were circulating last season that he was playing through the pain barrier at points in the last campaign, which may or may not have contributed to his sluggish play compared to the previous season.
Examples of this were the League Cup final against Celtic where he gave Callum McGregor the freedom of Hampden, as well as the away defeat to St Johnstone where he noticeably gave up on a loose ball in the build up to the Perth side’s opening goal.
Sunday at Ibrox, the most the crowd reacted all the day was the moment where he tracked back 50 yards to out pace the Motherwell front line to make sure a counter did not happen. There was also at least three occasions where he won crunching 50/50 tackles in the middle of the park – scenarios which he was constantly losing last year.
This is something our midfield, and overall team, has lacked for some time. Someone who has a bit of nastiness to them that allows the more creative players to do what they do well.
Is he better consistently in that position than the likes of Raskin, Cantwell or even Cifuentes? Probably not, but there at least appears to be something that Lundstram can still offer in this Rangers squad that we didn’t believe he was capable of only back in July.
And it’s the one bright spot outside of Jack Butland that Michael Beale can take from recent matches. Did not featuring at all in the defeat to Celtic spur Lundstram back into gear? Or was it hearing that Europa League theme once again?
Either way, let’s hope Mr Thursday Night can set an example to the rest of the squad on how you can turn your game around very quickly.