In Dujon Sterling, Rangers have potentially unearthed a gem that can sparkle brightly under the guidance of Michael Beale. 

The 23-year-developed at one of the most prestigious academies in Europe at Chelsea but after a 17-year association with the English giants, it was time to pursue a new challenge this summer. 

A number of clubs were interested in Sterling but his relationship with Beale, and the Rangers manager’s vision, enticed him to Ibrox on a four-year deal. 

Sterling grew up in humble beginnings in Tottenham, under the shadow of White Hart Lane, and was scouted by a number of top-flight sides from the age of six before opting to join Chelsea.

Beale worked with Sterling closely in his role as a youth coach across a number of age groups, before the defender progressed through the ranks to work under the esteemed Adrian Viveash, now assistant manager at Coventry City. 

“When I first came across him, he was eight years old and a bit of a rogue," Viveash tells the Rangers Review

"Him and a couple of the other young lads used to travel on the inner city tube in London and they had to grow up quickly. 

“They had a real vibrancy about them and they used to run the coaches ragged. Dujon had a larger than life personality and he was really confident in his ability, which was important at that age. 

“He had a tough upbringing and his mum brought him and his two siblings up on her own. He often had to help look after his siblings after getting back from training and that helped him grow up. 

“We always knew that he had character as well as ability. 

“He needed time to adjust to the training regimes at Chelsea but like all the youngsters, he received a lot of support and flourished through that. 

“He had a really good time in the academy and he played up the years very quickly.”  

When progressing through the youth ranks, Sterling was widely viewed as the second- best talent in the country at right–back, only behind Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold. 

Sterling was rated as highly as Reece James, now one of the best full-backs in the world, but the latter’s superior technical ability accelerated his path into the first-team after a hugely successful loan spell at Wigan Athletic when he also played in central midfield. 

The attacking demands on full-backs have increased significantly across the last decade, and while he possesses that skillset, Sterling’s defensive and physical attributes stood out amongst many of his peers. 

He was often deployed as a winger during his youth career, which has enhanced his attacking ability, but his natural position was always in defence.

Sterling prospered as part of a hugely successful Chelsea side that made history by winning three consecutive FA Youth Cups and he scored in the 2015/16 final triumph over Manchester City, alongside Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori. 

Chelsea also won back-to-back UEFA Youth Leagues under the tutelage of Viveash, where Sterling highlighted his reputation as an elite talent.  

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“He was in my Champions League winning team at 15 against Paris Saint Germain. He played against Yakou Meite who was four years older than Dujon," Viveash adds.

“Meite scored but Dujon played really well against someone who was considerably older than him. His physicality, strength and power always stood out from a very young age and that’s why he was capable of playing against higher age groups. 

“Even at schoolboy football, it was quite difficult to promote players unless they had extreme talent and were technically gifted like Mason Mount or Ruben Loftus-Cheek. 

“The only other way was if they had raw power and pace and Dujon had that. He played in really successful teams at Chelsea and he won a lot of trophies.

“He got an opportunity in the first team during pre-season at a very young age. Through injuries and managerial changes, it never really worked at Chelsea and he had some successful loan spells.” 

Antonio Conte - renowned for playing with wing-backs - was a huge admirer of Sterling and he handed the youngster his professional debut against Nottingham Forest in 2017.

When Maurizio Sarri replaced Conte that summer, Sterling embarked on his first loan spell at Coventry City, where Viveash was assistant manager after departing Chelsea following a decade of success. 

“It really helped him grow up as he stayed away from home for the first time,” he adds.

"It didn’t always go rosy for him as he was competing with a senior player for a place. 

“He contributed to goals in some big games and the crowd took to him after being a bit mixed at the start. I remember a game against Bristol Rovers away and the manager took him off at half-time to protect him because the fans were getting after him. 

“Dujon didn’t understand at the time but the manager took him off to protect him. Then he started the next game and created a goal from left wing-back against Sunderland.

“His confidence really grew from that moment and he kicked on. We tried to get him back before, including this year but he developed past that level. 

“He had an issue that was almost career-ending but he’s come through a lot in his career and that tells you a lot about his character. 

“He had to rebuild himself and Chelsea were very good with him during that period and he is very grateful for that. 

“It will be a big thing for him to break that association with Chelsea. Rangers have got a very, very good player on their hands with the best years of his career ahead of him. 

“I think the fans will be quite excited by him because he’s still not reached his potential. He’s represented his country at all levels but I think there is still something in there and Mick [Beale] will have knowledge of that as they had a good affiliation.”

A subsequent loan spell at Wigan Athletic for Sterling was curtailed by a hamstring injury sustained against Leicester City before Covid shut down the football world. 

It was during the pandemic that Sterling faced the biggest adversity of his career. He was diagnosed with a rare illness that had the potential to be career-threatening but after specialist treatment, he displayed extreme mental fortitude to recover. 

Chelsea supported the full-back during his rehabilitation and he embarked on individual sessions alone at Cobham, returning in excellent physical condition. 

Sterling caught the eye of Thomas Tuchel after his loan spell at Blackpool but embarked on another temporary move last season at Stoke City. 

READ MORE: Analysing Dujon Sterling and why he fits Beale's vision 

The Rangers Review understands that Beale wanted to take Sterling to Queens Park Rangers last summer and he’s always tracked his development.

When it became apparent that Sterling would leave Chelsea this summer, Beale immediately made a move to bring him to Ibrox. 

A source close to the deal labelled Beale’s pitch to Sterling as "extraordinary".

There was interest from a number of English Premier League clubs but the player was enticed by the project at Ibrox after speaking to the manager.  

The level of expectation at Rangers far supersedes that of Sterling’s loan clubs but Viveash believes he will thrive under the pressure to win as he pointed to similar demands in Chelsea’s youth academy. 

 “I don’t think that will faze him as he’s grown up under the pressure to win since he was eight years old. It will probably get him going and Mick is a very talented coach and a good manager," he adds.

“He’s got some really good people around him too like Neil Banfield who is an outstanding coach and that will help him. 

“There’s undoubted potential with Dujon and it’s now about unlocking that. I’m hopeful that it will prove to be a very, very good move for Dujon and it’s a big thing for him to move up there. 

“Rangers have shown good commitment in him, it’s a long-term contract and hopefully he’s a massive success.”

Beale’s desire to recruit hybrid players this summer is well-documented and Sterling is capable of performing a number of roles across the defence. 

“He can play in a lot of positions but he’s very, very good at right wing-back. He can play extremely well at right centre-back in a three because he’s good at bringing the ball out well," Viveash adds.

“He glides across the ground and he can transfer the ball if you want to play a passing system. He can also play left back, right back and even centre-midfield. 

“He has a lot of strings to his bow and he will provide great versatility to Mick, who knows him very well from Chelsea.” 

Sterling’s arrival has sparked optimism amongst Rangers supporters.

His strength through hardship and clear early promise should reinforce the belief that a potential star has arrived.