‘One to Watch in 2010’ – Newcastle’s Nile Ranger

Some footballers have a knack for getting in to trouble. Joey Barton is a prime example. One player who falls into this category is Nile Ranger, the 18 year old prodigy that has overcame a life of crime on the streets to flourish at Newcastle this season.

Starting his career at Crystal Palace, Ranger was signed by Southampton in 2007. But numerous scrapes with the law plagued Ranger’s early teenage years. At 15, he was sentenced to a Young Offenders Institute for his part in a street robbery which took place in North London. At Southampton, Ranger was again a magnet for controversy: he was caught stealing a load of first-team kit and was given the reputation of a player with a bad attitude.

After being released by Southampton, Newcastle took a gamble on Ranger, and it is one that has paid off handsomely so far. Last season, the England U-19 striker scored 22 goals for the academy and reserve teams and was rewarded with a three and a half year deal and the Jackie Milburn Award for the most impressive youngster at the club.

Last season, Kevin Keegan, Alan Shearer and Joe Kinnear all included Ranger in the first team squad, but it is this season that the striker has impressed with the first team. He made his debut on the opening-day draw with West Brom, replacing Shola Ameobi as a late substitute, and then followed that by starting against Leicester back in August, where his performance earned him a Man of the Match award and a standing ovation from fans.

Tall, strong, with quick feet and a good footballing brain, Ranger has pace to burn, loves running at defenders with the ball and is great in the air. The youngster has even been described as an “English Adebayor” by some pundits. This season, Ranger has scored twice for Newcastle, his first goal coming in the win over Coventry in December and his second against Crystal Palace. The youngster has started in 4 games this season for Newcastle, and made 20 substitute appearances for the Championship leaders.

Man City are one of the clubs interested in signing the 18 year old striker, but Newcastle are keen to keep him at St James Park. If Ranger can continue to develop his game this season in the Championship, then he, along with fellow striker Andy Carroll, could be leading the Newcastle frontline next season in the Premiership.

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