Derek McInnes expects Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack to make major impact upon return from lengthy injury absence

The Scotland international is edging closer to a return to competitive action after posting a recent image of his football boots

Ryan Jack will be counting down the days as he prepares for a return to competitive action and his former Aberdeen mentor Derek McInnes is expecting him to have a major impact once he starts to find his feet again.

It has been almost eight months since Jack last kicked a ball for Rangers, having been plagued by a long-standing calf issue which required surgery.

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That meant the midfielder was unable to play his part in the remaining months of the Light Blues victorious unbeaten domestic campaign and cost him a place in Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad at the Euros.

McInnes knew Jack was devastated to miss out on two momentous occasions in his career after a quick phone call with his former protégé and knows he will be eager to put his injury nightmare behind him.

Despite sitting top of the Scottish Premiership, Jack’s influence in the middle of the park has certainly been felt this season by Steven Gerrard’s squad.

However, McInnes believes the player will return from his lengthy absence stronger and better than ever as he emphasised Jack’s importance to the Gers team.

He told the Daily Record: “I think Ryan, through his performances over the last year or two, has shown most Rangers fans and certainly the manager that he is such a key player for them.

“Even more so, this season, when he hasn’t played you can see how much he has been missed.

“When he is available, it does allow Rangers to maybe use Steven Davis a wee bit more strategically to keep him fresh because both players are very similar in how the play the game.

“They are like a metronome in the middle of the pitch, and they are everybody’s first pass in the team.

“For me, Ryan makes every team he plays better. He made my Aberdeen team better. He makes Rangers better when he plays, and he makes Scotland better.

“He is a top, top player and hasn’t has his troubles to seek with injury. This latest one has taken a bit longer to clear up than he’d have hoped.

“He was so disappointed to miss the Euros. I spoke to him the week before the Malmo game and he thought he was only a week or two away from being back at that point, so he’s obviously has a little setback.

“It would be great for him to get back. I know how much he loves his football and how much of an important player he’s become at Rangers.

“He’s had to earn that. Most people recognised him initially as a good player, playing for Aberdeen before coming to Rangers but I think he quickly established himself as a key player under Steven Gerrard.

“Stevie’s on the record as saying that as well. He knows the Premiership and when they play in Europe, he’s a possession-based midfielder, so he is vital in that environment.

“He backs himself. He can put his foot in, he can do a bit of everything, and he is a very demanding player and team-mate.

“Having him on the training pitch and available on a Saturday again could be very important to Rangers.”

When McInnes arrived in the North East from Bristol City in 2013, he identified Jack immediately as the type of driving force that he could build his team around and lead the Dons forward.

Aged just 22, he possessed leadership qualities and a level of maturity wise beyond his years and McInnes had little hesitation in handing him the captain’s armband.

McInnes added: “Your captain doesn’t need to be your best player, but he was my best player.

“I wanted to build my team around him and I told him that. I would have made him captain right away but Russell Anderson was there and I got a year out of him when I first went in to Aberdeen and what a great captain he was.

“But when I had a decision to make about who his successor was, there was no great deliberation for me, having worked with Ryan over that period of time.

“I knew he was everything I wanted in a captain because he is demanding. He trains properly day in, day out, and on a Saturday he doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

“He is a competitor and expects a level of performance from his team-mates. Plus, I wanted to make him feel important and built the team around him and that’s exactly what we did do.”