“I WANT to give you a chance — but don’t do me over, Nile,” warned Phil Brown.
“No way, I won’t,” insisted Nile Ranger.
So went the conversation as Southend boss Brown took a risk on one of English football’s most notorious players.
He hoped and believed he could be the one to tame the bad-boy striker at long last.
How let down the Shrimpers boss must be feeling right now.
Despite a promising start, the off-field misdemeanours and poor choices that have plagued Ranger’s career returned.
To such an extent that the 26-year-old has now been sacked by a club so supportive that they stood by him while he was locked up in prison.
Few fans will have sympathy with Brown — presumably none with Ranger — because the neon-flashing warning signs were there for all to see.
RANGER SACKED Nile Ranger sacked by Southend for shocking disciplinary record following his spell in prison
The guy has had a lot of chances to get back on track.
In an interview with the striker in November 2016 — a few months into his Southend spell — I see why Brown was hoodwinked into thinking he could tame him.
In a game where characters are few and media-trained dullards are plentiful, Ranger seemed to have a refreshing honesty, openly admitting all his failings. He was likeable.
And, of course, he had talent. So much so that Newcastle and then-interim boss Alan Shearer tied him down to a five-year contract in April 2009.
But looking back now, there were many hints his intention to change might fall flat.
A top player these days lives his life right off the pitch.
Ranger’s modest flat was stocked with sweets. He gave up booze — as when he drank he “started acting up” — but only for a short while.
And his three-hour kips after training meant he was like “a vampire”, struggling to sleep at night.
That would often make him late for training and poor timekeeping was mentioned as Southend axed him.
Ranger claimed he hardly ever went out any more — compared to the “wild” nights in Newcastle — preferring to chill at his cousin’s in Enfield.
Yet he was suspended by Southend last January having admitted taking class-A drugs.
That was AFTER pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud over an online banking plot in which a woman lost more than £2,000 — a crime that saw him jailed last summer.
His quotes from that piece make depressing reading now he has failed to live up to them.
Ranger said: “I didn’t realise this early on but I’m a role model to a lot of people. I have to go out and conduct myself in the right way.
“There are a few who have taken their own time out to sit me down and help me. People like Shay Given, Michael Owen, Nicky Butt, Kevin Keegan, Alan Shearer. It was before the penny dropped. I feel the penny has dropped now, so I can focus.
“Not many people might want to see me do well but I’m going to do well. It’s going to happen, it’s destined.”
The sad thing for Ranger is he is not stupid, he will be fully aware of how badly he has messed up and how much it will cost him.
Football is surely done with him. He will have to fulfil that destiny in another line of work.
Peterborough chairman Darragh MacAnthony’s response to a fan on Twitter urging him to “Announce Nile Ranger” summed it all up well.
The Posh chief, himself not averse to handing problem players a second chance, replied: “I’d rather announce the Lone Ranger”.
THE Checkatrade Trophy? Who needs it, eh?
Well it turns out a fair few clubs do judging by the financial rewards on offer this term.
The controversial and much unloved competition’s prize pot went up to £3million this season, with £1.92m of that allocated for the group stages — £10,000 for a win and £5,000 for a draw.
Some League One and Two outfits are so desperate for cash boosts compared to the obscene riches of the Premier League. And they are putting the extra dosh to good use.
Danny Cowley’s Lincoln are using it to help build a new training ground away from Sincil Bank.
Peterborough paid for the completion of a 3G pitch at their training academy which is used not only by their own kids but the local community too.
The world’s only vegan football club Forest Green have put the funds towards upgrading catering facilities in three of their stands — having also installed new kitchen equipment, including new ovens and freezers, in their main stand.
The Checkatrade Trophy revamp was also intended to give more English youngsters a chance with a long-term goal of aiding the national team.
And the numbers are encouraging since 64 per cent of the players involved in group-stage games were English, 32 per cent in starting line-ups.
I still maintain the long-term future of this competition will be defined by the number of fans who turn up to watch matches.
But it is surely unfair to claim it has no merit at all.
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