The plan for Joe Rankin-Costello remains for him to be a utility player upon his return from injury, Tony Mowbray has confirmed.

Rankin-Costello made his first appearance since April off the bench in the defeat to Fulham having recovered from a broken foot.

That came after three appearances for the Under-23s where he lined up on the right side of the defence. Rankin-Costello operated there for the majority of his 16 appearances last season, all starts, but was also used at left back, in central midfield and as part of the front three.

That is where he came through the ranks at Rovers but his physicality, and ability to deliver from the wide areas, have seen Mowbray view him as a perfect fit at full back.

But with Rovers carrying a small squad, Mowbray says the versatility of Rankin-Costello will be key.

He said: “I don’t think he wants to hear it, but he’s still a utility player in my mind.

“I think he would like to nail down a position in the team, and that might come in the future, but at this moment with where we are as a football club, Joe Rankin-Costello has to be able to play left wing and right back, right wing and left back, central midfield, and he can do all of them pretty well in my mind.

“The positive of that is that he should get some knocks and injuries, the negative is that he doesn’t want to be a versatile player who sits on the bench and covers a number of positions.

“Let’s see when he’s fit and when he’s played 90 minutes, and another one, and another, and see where we see if he can nail down a position.”

Injury struggles have meant Rankin-Costello hasn’t been able to nail down a starting spot, or a regular position, since breaking into the first-team in the post-lockdown matches in 2020.

He hopes to have put his worries about hamstring strains behind him and remain injury free for the remainder of the season and look to repay the faith of his manager.

Mowbray has also used new signing Tayo Edun in a number of positions, while Elliott Bennett served a similar role in his final two seasons at the club.

On versatile players, he added: “We’re not the only football club who has a situation like that.

“It can be a hindrance because you can feel as though you’re not first choice in any one position, but I think Joe, once he gets himself up to speed and ready again, from my viewings of him he could nail down most positions in the team. It will have to be a good player to keep him out of the team.”

Rankin-Costello was on the bench against Derby before featuring against Fulham and while he wasn't in the 18 against Sheffield United, that wasn't fitness related.