Nile Ranger, 22, was tipped for great things in his Newcastle days when he joined the club in 2009, aged 18, but four years down the line he finds himself in League 1 and in danger of people remembering him more for his off the field antics than his football ability.
Nile's problems off the field are nothing new however, back in the days when he was on Southampton's books as a 15 year old he showed promise but found himself imprisoned in a Young Offender's institute for 11 Weeks following an armed robbery. He returned to The Saints after, briefly, before being released due to his behaviour.
He was somewhat fortunate to be signed up by Premiership outfit Newcastle United then but he earned his place, scoring 15 goals for the Under 18's and 7 for the Reserve team and was rewarded with a 3 and a half year deal by Alan Shearer as Newcastle prepared their assault on The Championship following their unexpected Relegation.
Ranger was awarded his Magpies début in the season opener against West Brom as an injury time substitute for Shola Ameobi before winning his first start, getting the Man of the Match award in a 1-0 victory over Leicester City three weeks later. Nile Ranger proved he could get goals in tier 2 after netting in the 2-0 wins over Coventry and Crystal Palace.
Ranger wouldn't make much more of an impact as Newcastle romped to The Championship title and didn't feature much in the following Premiership season either, mostly limited to Carling Cup games. He took whatever chance he got however and managed to score in two of those fixtures in wins over Accrington Stanley and Chelsea. Ranger made his Premiership début as an 89th minute substitute vs Wigan and went on to make a number of sub appearances, most notably against Arsenal where he turned past Koscielny who fouled him and got sent off, maintaining a 0-1 win for Newcastle. Bad-Boy Nile also started a few games that season following injuries to Andy Carroll and Leon Best, failing to add to his goals tally but he was still awarded a 5 and a half year deal by Chris Hughton.
Whilst 2010 was a good year for Nile Ranger on the field, his behaviour in 2011 would cause him problems off it. On 27 August he was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a man in Newcastle city centre leaving the victim unconscious in the street, but was found not guilty in October 2012 and then in October 2011 he was charged with being drunk and disorderly in Newcastle's Cathedral Square. The charge came only days after Ranger had been reinstated to Newcastle United's first-team training after a three-month exile in the club's reserves. Prior to this, in May 2011 Ranger was questioned by Newcastle after posing with a gun in a photograph. The gun was later handed in.
In what was an eventful 2011 for him, Ranger joined Championship side Barnsley to try and get his mind in Football gear again, however it didn't work out for him, 5 appearances, 0 goals and a foot injury had his loan cut short and back to Newcastle he went. He would try again in March 2012, this time opting for Sheffield Wednesday, then in League 1. 2 goals in 8 games was satisfactory as Wednesday won Promotion back to The Championship, however Ranger was still getting into trouble. Firstly making a homophobic comment on Twitter for which he was fined, then he was arrested again for breaching bail whilst awaiting trial for four assault charges. Then in September, Ranger was accused of criminal damage to a front door of someone else's property, the charges were dropped 2 Months later however after the Court agreed that the Newcastle Front-man had damaged the door fearing his Girlfriend was being kidnapped.
Despite all of this however the Newcastle man still continued to get in the papers for all the wrong reasons. The 25th of January would prove to be the day that Ranger's reputation would hit rock bottom. Ranger was arrested on suspicion of rape in a Newcastle hotel room and was charged for this on the 8th July and is due in court again in the New Year. His 2013 didn't end there though, he was convicted of assault in March and hit the headlines again in July after getting "Ranger" tattooed on his forehead, coinciding with a Smiley face on his bottom lip which he isn't shy on showing.
Newcastle had got fed up with Ranger's behaviour and released him by Mutual Consent in September. 2 goals in 51 league games was not enough to justify his behaviour and Ranger was temporarily unemployed.
That was until League 1 outfit Swindon Town decided to take the risk. Despite negative press and an understandable annoyance from supporters, Ranger signed a 1 year deal on the dotted line in Wiltshire with the option of a second depending on his Court Case outcome. At the beginning it looked like a master-stroke by new boss Mark Cooper, Ranger repaid the faith shown in him, scoring 6 goals in 15 games including an 87th winner against West Country Rivals Bristol City. However, now, Ranger seems to be showing his true colours. He's missed several training sessions in the last Month, some from Swindon giving him time off for his court case, some for unknown reasons. Ranger has now gone AWOL and shows no signs of being in Cooper's plans for the time being.
And this is what ultimately lets Nile Ranger down. He's proved he has talent, he's been capped for the England U-19's 11 times, scoring 6 goals and although he may not be cut out for The Premiership, he may have been if he concentrated on his football more than his life of crime. One level he looks to have found himself at is League 1 with Championship chasing Swindon where he could really prove himself.
If Ranger is found innocent in January and Swindon forgive him for his missed training sessions and he finally learns to keep his head down and get on with his Football he could become the good player everyone expected back in 2009. However, it could all be too late for Nile if he gets found guilty in Court and then he'll be added to the never ending "what might have been" list.
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