Why it makes sense to keep Nile in fold

The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

ARMED rob­bery. Vi­o­lence against women. Ho­mo­pho­bic tweets, ar­rests ga­lore and more van­ish­ing acts than David Blaine. There re­ally isn’t any­thing to like about Nile Ranger.

Now, the Southend United striker has plumbed de­spi­ca­ble new depths af­ter ad­mit­ting his part in a plot to swin­dle more than £2,000 from a vul­ner­a­ble woman in Fe­bru­ary 2015.

Ranger will re­turn to court in April for sen­tenc­ing and has been warned by a judge he could face jail. Given his his­tory, it’s as­ton­ish­ing he hasn’t ex­pe­ri­enced life be­hind bars.

Ac­tu­ally, that’s not en­tirely true. In 2007, as a 15-year-old trainee at Southamp­ton, he was made to serve 11 weeks in a young of­fend­ers’ in­sti­tu­tion for his part in a street rob­bery.

If lessons were learned, they were swiftly for­got­ten. Ranger was even­tu­ally sacked by Saints for steal­ing kit, then joined New­cas­tle where his rap sheet grew faster than Pinoc­chio’s nose.

Con­victed

A drink driv­ing con­vic­tion, an ar­rest for being drunk and dis­or­derly. As­sault charges, a bizarre pic­ture where he posed with a hand­gun, two court ap­pear­ances in a sin­gle week. That was 2011.

Next, he was caught on CCTV smash­ing down the door of his girl­friend’s Lon­don flat and an­grily con­fronting her. He es­caped with a charge of crim­i­nal dam­age.

He wasn’t so lucky a year later. Af­ter a horde of wit­nesses saw Ranger haul­ing girl­friend Shakira Bicar through New­cas­tle city cen­tre by her hair, the for­ward was con­victed of com­mon as­sault and hit with a 12-month com­mu­nity or­der.

On it went, ex­ac­er­bated by a to­tal fail­ure to em­brace his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as a foot­baller. At Swin­don and Black­pool, Ranger went miss­ing for weeks.

Ex­as­per­ated man­agers had any inkling as to his where­abouts only when he tweeted pic­tures from Wood Green in Lon­don, his child­hood home and the root of his prob­lems.

No mat­ter how far away he moved, he would in­vari­ably re­turn to the bad in­flu­ences of his youth. One for­mer col­league de­scribed the es­tate as ex­ert­ing a “grav­i­ta­tional pull” on Ranger.

Now this. De­tails are sketchy, with two co-de­fen­dants still to stand trial. What we know is that, in Fe­bru­ary 2015, Ranger ob­tained the on­line bank de­tails of Diane Bloss and il­le­gally trans­ferred £2,090.23 of her money into a San­tander ac­count.

Few crimes are as dis­gust­ing as prey­ing on the weak and vul­ner­a­ble. It is sorely tempt­ing to write off Ranger as a good-fornoth­ing scum­bag.

Here is a man given mul­ti­ple chances to es­cape an im­pov­er­ished life of crime. Who has a job most of us dream of but would rather beat peo­ple up or scam old women.

Few would shed a tear if the 25year-old was locked up, nor if Southend sent him packing. Given Phil Brown’s sug­ges­tion that Ranger’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives failed to men­tion the im­pend­ing court case when sign­ing a fourand-a-half year deal in De­cem­ber, the Shrimpers have firm grounds.

And yet .... while Ranger has un­doubt­edly com­mit­ted odi­ous crimes, what good can truly come of cut­ting him loose?

Guid­ance

He is a feral man­child, his child­hood chaotic and to­tally lack­ing in the kind of guid­ance and dis­ci­pline most of us take for granted. Even if we ac­cept he is not in­trin­si­cally ‘bad’, Ranger may be be­yond sal­va­tion.

Since join­ing Southend in Au­gust, the striker has kept his nose clean. Ap­par­ently tee­to­tal and de­ter­mined to make the most of his fi­nal shot, he claims the penny has fi­nally dropped.

“I’m a role model to a lot of peo­ple,” he said in Novem­ber. “I have to con­duct my­self in the right way. I think about that all the time now. It took me a hell of a long time to re­alise it.”

Of course, we have heard such procla­ma­tions be­fore. But, even if there is just a one per cent chance that Ranger can be re­ha­bil­i­tated, it must be seized.

Tempt­ing as it is to im­part puni­tive jus­tice, it would be better for Ranger and better for so­ci­ety if both the judge and Southend stayed their hands and al­lowed this leop­ard one last chance to change his spots – how­ever lit­tle he de­serves it.

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