I’ve often described Nile Ranger as ‘Leon Clarke with a gun.’
Like Clarke, the ex Sheffield Wednesday loanee has the physical strength, ability to find the net and a definite presence on the pitch that can unnerve the opposition.
But unlike Leon, Nile Ranger was never going to be a loveable mascot.
On Thursday evening, Ranger was arrested, for the sixth time in two and a half years, on suspicion of rape. As the alleged crimes become more serious Newcastle United now have to ask, is Nile Ranger a problem worth solving?
The Toon Army will never be able to claim that they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into when they signed Ranger in 2008. The year before he signed, when the striker played for Southampton, he was sentenced to 11 weeks in a young offenders institute for his part in a street robbery in Muswell Hill, London.
Nile was only 15 when he was convicted.
Despite his conviction, Dennis Wise saw the potential of the young striker and signed him for the Magpies’ academy.
During his four-year tenure at Newcastle, Ranger has been arrested for assaulting a man, who was left unconscious in the street. He’s also been charged with two accounts of being drunk and disorderly and prior to the rape allegation he was arrested for criminal damage after kicking in a front door. His explanation for the damage was that he thought his girlfriend had been kidnapped. The charges against him were dropped.
When you’re in a situation where you think your girlfriend has been kidnapped, it may be time to reassess your circle of associates.
As well as his brushes with the law, Ranger has had a fractious relationship with the FA. In 2011 he posed with a replica gun for a social networking profile photo. Nile later handed the gun in but later used his itchy trigger finger to unapologetic use when he was fined by the FA again for sending homophobic tweets to other players.Just hours before Ranger was arrested for allegedly raping a woman in a hotel room, he posted an an Instagram photo of his surname spelt out in money. There is an estimated month’s wages for the average fan in Ranger’s collage and another reason he doesn’t endear himself to fans.
On the pitch Ranger has issues too. He can be a ‘lummox’ as his brain works at the speed of a hamster going around a wheel. When Nile does realise where he is on the pitch and the ball has landed in his general vicinity, his run is reminiscent of a character from It’s a Knockout.
BUT he always seems to be in the right place at the right time (specifically on the pitch, I can’t claim he’s ever in the right place at the right time in his own time!)
For Sheffield Wednesday fans the positive will always be the second goal he scored on the last day of the season against Wycombe Wanderers to promote us to the Championship.
What Nile Ranger gave us that day was respite from years of disappointment with a bullet of a goal. During his loan period Ranger scored when it was important to the Owls. In the match against Huddersfield Town last season, Ranger’s contributions were the turning point of our promotion campaign.
Despite his lack of awareness sometimes, he has enormous strength on the ball. I don’t joke when I compare him to Leon Clarke. He has a similar playing style and the capacity to score many goals and unselfishly assist in the build up of play. Clarke maybe a journeyman player but there is no denying that wherever he plays he earns clubs points.
Ranger may have a more dangerous edge to him than Clarke but with a manager like Dave Jones or Tony Pulis who like to collect delinquent and wayward football players, the Newcastle striker may have a chance to rehabilitate.
If you look at Ranger’s arrest record and overlay it with his time playing in a first team, the trouble all but stops when he is given the opportunity to play. It’s not an excuse for Ranger but the lack of football for a talented player does seem to equate to more notes in his criminal record.
I’m not saying that he will ever get the opportunity to play again if he if convicted of the rape allegation or that I would welcome him back with open arms at Hillsborough but underneath the gangsta is a very good Championship/League 1 centre forward.
Newcastle United need to decide whether he’s worth the risk. With an allegation of this nature is it already too late to save his career and prove he can ever be a ‘changed man’? The jury is definitely still out.