Joe Rankin-Costello stressed ‘I need to play 90 minutes’ as the Academy graduate looks to put his injury issues behind him and challenge for a first-team spot once again.

The 22-year-old played 67 minutes for the Under-23s in their 2-2 draw with Liverpool on Monday night, his comeback from a broken foot sustained in April having been delayed by a hamstring issue.

It had been expected Rankin-Costello would have returned by now were it not for the setback, and he says he will make sure he is 100 per cent ready when declaring himself fit to challenge for a place in the starting XI.

That opportunity to play a full game is set to come for the Under-23s at Crystal Palace on Monday where Scott Wharton could also continue his comeback after getting 90 minutes against Liverpool.

“I’d say I need one more game, I need 90 minutes before I even try and play for the first-team, that’s the sensible thing to do,” Rankin-Costello told the Lancashire Telegraph.


An honesty policy will be key to Joe Rankin-Costello sustaining his fitness and cutting down on his injury absences.

His fitness has been closely managed having hampered his efforts to become a regular in the side, with three separate injury absences last season. While hamstring issues remain an ongoing concern, it was a broken foot that kept him out of action since April, before suffering a setback, with Rankin-Costello making his latest comeback appearance for the Under-23s on Monday night.

He played 67 minutes of the 2-2 draw, showing his versatility by starting at right wing-back before moving into midfield, but it’s off the pitch where Rankin-Costello is also continuing his learning.

He feels more comfortable in reporting any concerns over his fitness, and has also adapted his approach in training and prior to match in a bid to become more robust.

He said: “I’m just trying to do everything I can to try and stay fit, everything in the gym, before games, before training, so hopefully I can stay fit.

“I’m trying to make my body a little bit more robust, a bit cleverer in certain situations, not always going full throttle, sometimes just take your foot off the gas at times, pick and choose, be clever.

“It’s just about telling people when you’re struggling, tell the physios, I was a bit scared to do that in the past because I was breaking through and now I feel I have done that a little bit I feel that I can be honest with the physios and the staff.”

While he may have missed two thirds of the season through injury, of the 17 times he was fit to make the squad, he was in the starting line-up on 16 occasions.

They included the 5-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers and 4-0 victories against Derby County and Coventry City, with Tony Mowbray seeing him as a better attacking option from right back than Ryan Nyambe, while also able to cover on the left side of defence.

So while he has backing of the manager, Rankin-Costello knows he must prove his fitness, but concedes it may be more difficult to break in this season given the more settled nature of the side.

He added: “The gaffer picked me when I was fit, they’re doing well at the minute so it might be tough to pick me at the minute, but we’ll see.

“I’ve taken my chances when they’ve come, my problem has been trying to stay there and if I can do that I will be fine.

“The first few months is tough but when you see the finish line and you start touching the ball again it gets easier and easier, but mentally is tough, it’s draining.”

Rankin-Costello started at wing-back for the Under-23s, a position which he says is now the one he feels most comfortable in, before moving into midfield for the start of the second half.

While he admitted it wasn’t his best performance, he said he came through the encounter fit and well and looking for more minutes in the Premier League 2 clash at Crystal Palace on Monday.

“I broke my foot in April, came back, had a few little niggles which has been frustrating, and it’s felt like if it’s not one thing it’s another,” he added.

“Hopefully I can play 90 minutes against Crystal Palace on Monday and now I can be back and play the rest of the season.”

On the game itself, he said: “We were rubbish in the first half, we couldn’t really get out, they pressed well, but in the second half we were a bit better.”

“I feel good, obviously I wasn’t great, but we dug deep to get a result in the end.”