NILE Ranger is determined to seize his last chance at Newcastle United with both hands.
Ranger was awarded his first start since April last year in last night’s 2-0 defeat to Bordeaux.
The striker’s future has long looked to be away from St James’s Park, with Ranger’s career on Tyneside having been beset by off-the-field issues.
But the 21-year-old has improved his timekeeping off the field and applied himself on the training pitch in recent months.
And United manager Alan Pardew has given him one final opportunity at the club.
“It’s been tough for me,” Ranger told the Gazette. “I’ve been out of the first team for a while at Newcastle.
“It’s always the best thing to play for your parent club, and Newcastle’s a massive club, so it’s good to get back. If I keep getting the chance, then I’ll do well. I haven’t played for so long, so it can be a stepping stone.
“Hopefully, I get more chances, and keep on grafting and doing well.
“If you do everything right, and you train well, then you can’t be ignored.
“The gaffer’s acknowledged the fact I’ve been coming in on time and done things right. He’s rewarded me.
“There’s a lot to learn. I don’t know it all – I’m only 21 – but obviously I must do extra training, get my head down and watch others.
“The gaffer’s been good with me. He told me he was watching me, and not to take anything for granted.
“He wants me to keep up the good work.
“I haven’t played for the first team for a long time, and never in the Europa League.
“I haven’t played and I have been injured so it is good to come back into such a big game.”
Asked what has changed in Ranger’s attitude, he added: “I just told myself that I’m a professional footballer.”
Ranger – who has had loan spells at Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday – admits he felt his career at United was coming to an end, despite being contracted to the club until 2016.
“I thought ‘that’s it – I have to move on to another club’,” said the Londoner.
“I thought my future was going to be somewhere else.
“It’s not been the case. There’s always another chance to turn a new leaf.”
Fans have been criticial of Ranger on social networking site Twitter during his long spell in the cold, but he has also been given encouragement by some supporters.
“There’s been a quite a few loyal supporters that have been backing me and giving me and the rest of the squad support,” said Ranger.
“So I have to give a shout out to all of them. It’s always good to give them payback.
“Some see me and think ‘why is he getting a chance here? He doesn’t deserve it’. Obviously, I have to redeem myself and take my chance.”
Chances were few and far between for Newcastle at the Stade Chaban-Delmas, and Cheick Diabate scored a goal in each half as Bordeaux progressed as Group D winners.
“It’s always good to play in a competition like the Europa,” said Ranger.
“Obviously, the gaffer’s been watching the youngsters, and he felt we should go out and get a chance.
“We lost, but I think we put the effort in out there.”