Rovers were always confident of delivering a new, extended, deal for Joe Rankin-Costello, but announcing the conclusion of contract talks is always as much a relief as it is exciting.

The option taken up in Rankin-Costello’s contract last month, first agreed in 2019, was always to secure his immediate future while maintaining the discussion surrounding those of his long-term.

His focus will be now on putting himself in a position where he can build on the undoubted promise that he’s shown throughout his time at the club, firstly in the youth ranks and then on the first-team stage.

It was a unique season for everyone in 2020/21, Rankin-Costello no exception, all 16 of his appearances coming as a starter, the only reason he didn’t make more down to injuries, with two separate hamstring lay-offs before a fractured metatarsal in April ended his season early.

He scored in the Carabao Cup win over Doncaster in August, then selected in the side to face Bournemouth on the opening day, keeping his place for the Carabao Cup defeat at Newcastle United.

That Bournemouth defeat came on the right wing, then used in central midfield against Newcastle, but since the 5-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers days later, he’s largely been considered as an option in the full back areas.

The reasons being were not only down to Rovers’ results when he did play, the early season wins all coming with him preferred to Ryan Nyambe, but the extra productivity Tony Mowbray felt he could give the side.

The full backs play such a big part in the 4-3-3 system that Rovers have preferred in recent times, Rankin-Costello’s ability to mix the physical qualities needed defensively and the natural attacking instincts he had, a seemingly perfect combination for Mowbray.

However, as Rankin-Costello approaches his 22nd birthday and a second full season around the first-team, could now be an opportunity to play him more regularly in his favoured attacking position?

One thing he certain has is an eye for goal, demonstrated in the pre-season friendly at Leicester City last summer, where he looked a constant threat and throughout his time in the Under-23s.

That is a unique talent, and Rovers have lacked for that goalscoring instinct at times.

While Rankin-Costello will understandably play anywhere he’s asked to be in the team, his preferred role is on the left side of the attack, and it does take something out of his game to play him in the full back area, not least given Rovers have one of those most dependable right backs in the division in Ryan Nyambe.

Could now be the time to play them in the same side together?

While it has mostly been one or the other when it comes to Nyambe and Rankin-Costello, their impact on the team can surely accommodate both.

With Rankin-Costello adding his name to Scott Wharton, John Buckley and Tyrhys Dolan in signing extended contracts it is hoped those breakthroughs can be followed with some more senior players.

But Rankin-Costello is just another example of the fine work the Rovers Academy do, first identifying him when made available upon his release from Manchester United and then nurturing him into a position to challenge for first-team honours.

He has done it the way most have made their breakthroughs for Rovers in not going out on loan but staying around the club and being ready for his chance when it came.

That was largely in the second half of the 2019/20 season, and followed up by some promising performances in pre-season and early in 2020/21, he’s never looked back.

He’s become a key member of not only the squad, with his versatility, but also on the side.

And should he stay injury free, the hope will be those 16 starts can at least be doubled next term, and his impact become even greater.