Eddie Jones, the current Japan and former England rugby coach, calls them ‘finishers’.

‘Substitute’ is not a word in his vocabulary. The connotations are too second-rate, the literal definition of the word “to use something or someone instead of another thing or person” not fitting of the impact non-starting players can have on the outcome of a match. Finishers describes a bespoke role of equal importance rather than a secondary spot in relation to those lining up from kick-off.

Football continues to have an unusual relationship with the bench. It’s always a negative and rarely, if ever, is consideration given to a manager’s thinking throughout 90 minutes when a line-up is announced. Players strop when taken off early or cut frustrated, slouching figures behind the dugout if not playing from the start.

There are some signs that trends are changing. The five-substitution rule, a sheer necessity given the frequency of matches in modern football, gives managers greater leeway from the touchline. And as roles within the game continue to specialise, substitution coaches are even appearing.

Sammy Lander. when working at AFC Wimbledon, was to prepare substitutes and play a hand in the timing of their introduction. He observed from his own experience that players were rarely physically ready or mentally fresh to come on and impact a game. Pre-match and half-time warm-ups are often low-tempo affairs and when, after sitting on a cold bench for 85 minutes, players are brought onto impact a game they are rarely in the best condition to do so. Just like throw-ins, set-pieces, goal-kicks and more, getting substitutions right provides a marginal gain.

All of this leads us to Kemar Roofe, and the role he could play between now and the end of the season for Rangers.

Speaking last week, the 31-year-old said questions about his contract expiring this summer are for those upstairs. The response was telling. For all of Roofe’s quality, his availability makes a renewal untenable. 

During his first two seasons at Ibrox, Roofe still spent time on the sideline but played regularly. The minutes played charts below only considers league fixtures.

The same cannot be said for last season and the current campaign. Roofe has played only 477 league minutes since the start of the 2022/23 campaign, just over five 90 minutes.

Roofe could still have a material impact on the direction of trophies, but there’s weight in the argument that he shouldn’t start for Rangers again. Of course, that argument is not grounded in anything close to a lack of a quality. Rather the risk and reward of the alternative. 

Instead, with the next two months likely to be his Ibrox swansong, the striker can be Clement’s ‘finisher’. A player who provides in clutch moments, exploits gaps in tired defences and possesses the mentality to provide in big moments.

Roofe, if fit, is the club’s best striker. The only reason he’s not spent his prime at a higher level is availability. The forward’s fitness record is a huge frustration amongst the Ibrox support but the reaction when Roofe does play, in spite of so many set-backs, tells you the crowd know of his quality. The reality is Roofe could still leave Rangers this summer having scored a handful of critical goals, with recent years and previous frustrations a distant memory. 

The end of a happy story is far more memorable than mishaps along the way.

“He still can be very important this season. It’s about good communication, what is realistic and not to do stupid things,” Clement said recently discussing Roofe, acknowledging that the attacker has to be managed very intentionally. 

“He is helping me through the situation. I’ve been building it up, not just getting plonked into the deep end and it being sink or swim. We’re doing it properly,” was Roofe’s assessment when asked how Clement is building up his match minutes.

“He came in and said he would do things about fitness. Every player is different — everyone has different attributes. Some are slower, some quicker, we’re all built differently. So, it doesn’t make sense making everyone do the same thing.”

Roofe is not a player who comes off the bench in a sulk, or one who takes time to show sharpness. The focus he demonstrates when on the pitch only makes the infrequency of that scene all the more frustrating. Think of his winner away in Seville to secure Rangers’ 3-2 win over Real Betis late last year or the finish against Aberdeen which sent Michael Beale’s men into the Viaplay Cup Final the season before. When he opened the scoring away at Ross County in April at a corner, Beale suggested that no other player in the squad would score that same type of poacher’s finish.

Even when Roofe has minimal minutes he tends to have moments and that, between now and May, could be vital. Rather than playing him from the off, with greater distances to cover, is there not more value in having the player primed for moments? Roofe doesn’t need to start 10 games between now and the end of the season to have his say, it might only take a few moments.

As Clement’s side stuttered to defeat against Motherwell recently at Ibrox their lack of composure in the final minutes despite sufficient chances to turn the score was obvious. All teams have off-days and there have been few of those in six months of Clement’s management. Even in the dying embers against the Steelmen, Roofe’s subtle movement in the box and uncanny ability to arrive in the right areas earned a shot from close range that merited a penalty shout.

Clement has made a habit of maximising resources since October. Both in terms of individual performances and the collective sums of a side that were shot of confidence and built for a different playing style upon his arrival.

Using Roofe as a finisher may well be the next entry.