Rovers will take a long-term view with Joe Rankin-Costello and give him all the time he requires to be ready for a first-team spot again.

Rankin-Costello was on the verge of a first-team return last month, making his first appearance since April in the 7-0 defeat to Fulham, but suffered a setback in training.

Hamstring injuries have troubled Rankin-Costello ever since his breakthrough in 2020, that rearing its head last month upon his return from a broken foot and then again last month.

His talent and versatility make him a key member of the squad, having started 16 of the 17 matches he was fit for last season, but Tony Mowbray has put his availability to the back of his mind to allow him the smoothest recovery possible.

 “He hasn’t been fit for a long, long time,” he said.

“I’m at the point of forgetting the time and just getting him ready so that when he does come back he doesn’t break down. There’s no rush.

“I’m not sitting here thinking that we have to have him back next week.

“If it takes another month, two months, three months, just make sure he doesn’t break down and turn him into some super being who’s really strong and robust so that he doesn’t break down.”

Rankin-Costello played twice for the Under-23s earlier in the season as well as a behind closed doors fixture in order to build up his fitness.

That was part of his recovery from the fractured metatarsal suffered at Wycombe Wanderers which ended his campaign in April.

His inability to put together a sustained run of games has been a source of frustration for both player and coaching staff given his potential to become a regular first-team player.

He has played 26 times in the Championship for Rovers, starting 16 of the 17 matches he was available for and challenged Ryan Nyambe for a spot on the right side of the Rovers defence.

The Namibia international is himself struggling with a hamstring problem, but for Rankin-Costello, Mowbray says the process of building up his fitness is underway once again.

“Joe has been on the grass periodically, he’s building up,” he added.

“As I’ve said before, we have to get to a point where he gets himself back gradually into the training, playing Under-23s games, on the bench and gradually playing in our team but doesn’t break down.

“We have to make him robust and it might be a longer-term process to put the work into him and build the muscle structures that allow him not to break down.

“There’s a lot of work behind the scenes with Joe because he’s pretty crucial for our football club because he’s so versatile and with a lot of players coming out of contract potentially he could become a really big player for us in a few positions.

“We need to get him fit, robust and strong.”