Connect in the back of the net

Upon signing for Newcastle United in 2008, the future looked bright for Nile Ranger.

After spending a season in the reserve team, the then-teenager was rewarded with his first professional deal, having previously being on the books at Crystal Palace and Southampton.

What was more of a bonus was that the deal was handed by none other than Newcastle United legend and Premier League record goal scorer Alan Shearer. Shearer was manager at the time and liked what he saw of the young striker who bagged 22 times for the reserves; Ranger was destined for success.

Fast-forward eight years and Ranger’s career has been unimaginably on the decline. At a time where he should have reached the peak of his profession, the striker was sentenced to eight months in prison for online banking fraud in May 2017.


Promising start

It was a promising start for Ranger at Newcastle. Having made his debut in the Championship in 2009, Ranger was involved steadily and raked up 25 appearances, scoring twice in United’s subsequent title-winning campaign.

The striker also grasped his chance in the Premier League and made a total of 28 appearances in all competitions and scoring once in the 4-3 away victory over Chelsea in the League cup.

Although not scoring regularly, Ranger impressed with his hold-up play, speed and strength, while his contribution to the team as a whole left a positive impact on the Geordie faithful; with a game-changing display in the historic 4-4 draw at home to Arsenal in February 2011 being notable.

Ranger was used progressively by managers Chris Hughton and Alan Pardew, and appeared mainly from the bench. Both managers attempted to nurture his development carefully as an exciting talent had emerged, while Ranger finished the 2010/11 season as the most used substitute in the Premier League.  

He was also rewarded with a new five-and-a-half year contract in 2010 as a result of his performances, while expectations were as high as ever.


Legal issues and parting ways with Newcastle

Off the field, Ranger had a history of legal issues, well before joining Newcastle. This began as early as the age of 15 when the striker was sentenced to a Young Offender’s Institute for a short period.

Newcastle had hoped that Ranger’s performances and reinforcements would prevent such concerns, having been aware of Ranger’s history when signing him; however this was not to be.

In May 2011, Ranger controversially posed with a replica gun in a picture, causing the club to question him, while three months later he was arrested on suspicion of assault in Newcastle City Centre.

The Magpies took action and Ranger was dropped to the reserves as a result. The Londoner lost his focus somewhat and his career at St James’ Park was not the same.

Ranger found playing time hard to come by in the 2011/12 season, with further charges including being drunk and disorderly and making homophobic comments on Twitter not helping his case. He then was sent out to Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday respectively on short-term loan deals.

On returning to the Toon the following season, Ranger again could not keep himself out of the headlines for off-the-field issues.

In January 2013 the striker was arrested on suspicion of rape and, following the accusation and after considering all the legal controversies, Ranger parted company with Newcastle by mutual consent in March 2013.


Lifeline handed by Swindon Town

Despite his ongoing rape trial (which he was later cleared of in March 2014), Ranger was gifted with a contract by Swindon Town. He began well at the Robbins and became a regular in the starting XI.

However he lasted only one season, with further disciplinary issues including failing to turn up to training resulting in his contract being terminated with the club.

This became an ongoing pattern with each one of Ranger’s clubs, with a similar situation occurring at Blackpool for whom Ranger joined in August 2014.

Shortly upon signing, Ranger went absent from the Tangerines due to family issues and returned in July 2015. Later on that year Ranger reflected on his actions and issued a statement of apology, indicating that he had matured and was purely focused on football.


New adventure at Southend, but issues keep piling back

In August 2016, Ranger began a new adventure at Southend United and had some modest success, netting eight times across the season.

Just when Ranger seemed settled and concentrated, the ex-England under 19 international was charged with conspiracy to defraud in December 2016 and thus sentenced the following May.

This may yet be the final straw in Ranger’s profession as a footballer, with an ill-disciplined background preventing him from succeeding on the pitch. Although the striker can still play once released, this seems unlikely given the numerous opportunities presented to him.


Dogged legal trouble and lack of focus ruin a promising career

The talent was there for all to see however talent itself is not the sole attribute to succeed in the professional game, with Ranger being a prime example.

Ranger had been blessed with living the dream that many had aspired, however his lack of focus proved ultimately detrimental; it is a case of what could have been for the one-time Premier League prospect.


Written by Dawud Arshad

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