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James Sands thanked Rangers for affording him “a fantastic opportunity” over the past 13 months after his loan deal with the Ibrox club was ended prematurely, allowing him to return to parent club New York City.

The 22-year-old defender joined the cinch Premiership club last January on an 18-month contract but it was confirmed on Wednesday that he has returned to the Major League Soccer side after falling down the pecking order since Michael Beale replaced Giovanni van Bronckhorst as Gers manager in November.

Sands made 41 appearances for Rangers – 27 as a starter – but had started only three matches since the World Cup break. Upon returning to New York, he signed a new contract with his hometown club until 2027.

“I am excited to return to New York,” he told their website. “As someone who grew up in New York and played for local youth teams and the NYCFC academy, it was and continues to be a great honour to represent this club.

“NYCFC has had a tremendous impact on my development, the club’s support of my initial step in Europe and continued understanding of my career goals has been very important to me.

“I would like to thank Rangers for the fantastic opportunity to play with a top-notch European team.

“Reaching the Europa League final, playing in the Champions League and winning the Scottish Cup are just a few of the many positive memories that I will take away with me. The level of support from the Rangers fans is second to none.

“I hope I can use my experience abroad to help the club achieve its goals and bring home some more silverware for our incredible fans.”

Beale – who has preferred other options in the centre-back area – explained that it made sense for everyone concerned to allow Sands to return to America for the start of the MLS campaign.

“I would like to thank James for his time at Rangers,” said the Gers boss. “He was a well-liked player in our squad and I enjoyed working with him on a daily basis. I believe he will go on to have an excellent career.

“The opportunity to return to NYCFC for the start of the MLS season, where he will be a key player in their squad, was something that we felt was correct for all parties. Everyone at Rangers wishes him well moving forwards.”