Is ‘lunatic’ Nile Ranger finally settling down?

Nile Ranger
Nile Ranger
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Some love him, most people appear to hate him, but everyone knows the name Nile Ranger.

Since bursting onto the first team scene with Newcastle in 2009 it’s been anything but quiet for the controversial striker who for a time had more arrests to his name than career goals.

Nile Ranger

Nile Ranger

Now 23, it appears he’s finally settling down and at last ready to fulfil his huge footballing potential.

It’s fair to say most people are surprised when they meet him, a likeable and bright character, Ranger is one of the most popular members of Blackpool’s dressing room and appears a million miles away from the headline grabber we’ve all read about.

And when sat without a club at the start of the season, you get the feeling the reality of life without football is one which offered a wake-up call.

“When you see the sort of things in the paper about me I understand people would think ‘this guy is a lunatic’ and not want to take a chance on me,” he said.

Nile Ranger

Nile Ranger

“No team wanted to touch me at one stage but Blackpool gave me that chance, I have to take it now.

“I fully understood why teams didn’t want to take me, I just want to prove people wrong.

“I’ve been playing quite a bit and it’s always good to show people what you can do.

“The fans have backed me here, so have my team mates and all the staff.

“The Blackpool fans have been good, every time I get on the pitch they back me and it makes me feel good.”

Ranger grew up in the Wood Green area of London and was making quite a name for himself in the game until off the field problems started to take hold.

In 2007, at the age of 15, he was sentenced to 11 weeks in a Young Offenders Institute after being convicted of participating in street robbery in Muswell Hill, London.

It almost ended his career before he even started, until Newcastle took a chance of his potential.

He explained: “I started at Palace when I was a young boy and was released.

“From there I went to a college in Barnet and while I was there I scored against Southampton when I was 16.

“They were impressed with me and I ended up signing for them.

“I was at Southampton for a while and scored a lot of goals there, everything was going great, then I went to jail.

“I got caught up with the wrong crowd and was sent to jail.

“When I came back out I was kicked-out of Southampton which was a blessing in disguise for me really as I ended up at Newcastle.

“Newcastle was good for me, they gave me a big chance in football and that’s where I made my name really.”

And he was good for Newcastle. In their Championship promotion season Ranger played 30 times, before making 28 appearances in the Premier League the following season.

Then came the problems.

Three arrests, and a charge for making homophobic comments on Twitter followed before being sacked by the club in 2013 following after being accused of rape in January 2013, a crime he was later cleared of.

Looking back the striker has plenty of regrets around his time at the Toon.

“I messed that chance up,” he said. “Everyone makes mistakes, I was young and earning a lot of money there and I started to do stupid things.

“Demba Ba, Mark Viduka and Michael Owen were all at Newcastle when I was there and it was incredible to play alongside them.

“Michael Owen used to pull me aside and talk to me, he’s a top bloke.

“He’d try and get me to focus and things, but I thought I had it all back then.

“Much of his advice would go in ear and out the other to be honest.

“It was silly but it was good to know the likes of Michael Owen cared about me and tried to change me.”

Despite the problems Ranger is now rebuilding his reputation on the Fylde coast with past problems seemingly behind him.

He even considers himself to be a role model for people who feel they can’t change or achieve in life.

“Kids know who I am and look up to me, it’s a good feeling,” he said.

“In my own way I am a role model, we all are in different ways.

“For kids in areas of London who feel they can’t get out of the place and the atmosphere, well I’ve proved you can.

“I’m not one to leave my family and friends, they are my people so it was hard to leave them.

“But they are on a different path to them and I had to leave them behind to help me grow.

“I don’t mean that in a bad way, I just had to do it.

“Now I’m in Blackpool and my family are from London, it’s always good to go back down there and see my family and friends.

“I don’t get to see my family as much as I’d like as I’m up here now, they are the most important people to me.”

Ranger’s name is always met with mixed reception at away grounds when read out but it’s nothing something which concerns him.

The aim for the 23-year-old is clear, to finally achieve his potential, and prove a few people wrong along the way.

He said: “There are ups and downs of being Nile Ranger.

“There are a lot of people out there who don’t like me, but that doesn’t phase me at all, if anything it gives me a buzz, I thrive off it.

“Now is the time to focus for me, I’m not getting any younger, I’m 23 now.

“I’m determined to prove everyone who doubted me wrong, that’s my aim.”