Boreham Wood manager Luke Garrard is convinced Nile Ranger can leave his past behind him and succeed in football - be it at Meadow Park or at a higher level.
By Steven Oldham
Ranger can get his career back on track
The 30-year-old striker was officially unveiled as a Wood player in December, but has been training with the club for over four months.
Four seasons have now passed since Ranger played regularly, in his first spell at Southend United. Much has been made of his disciplinary and legal issues over the years, but Garrard is adamant that he can succeed - and confirmed he isn’t taking a wage as he attempts to get his career back on track.
“Initially, he came in to us to train - and then stated he wanted to earn a deal. He’s in the building because we honestly feel he can get a move. Clubs have contacted us with regards to his services since he’s been with us.
“For me, it’s about getting him back to where he can play, and I genuinely believe that he’s an EFL player.
“He’s been an absolute breath of fresh air, and the respect I have for him is huge. I take people at face value - something which me and the chairman are really good at.
“There’s obviously background on him, but the way we look at it is, how you respect us, that’s how we will respect you. He’s really driven, and a talented footballer,” he said.
Minutes hard to come by as Ranger regains fitness
With Ranger not playing for so long, it’s perhaps no surprise there have been no immediate fireworks. He has made his debut for the club, from the bench. Numerous postponed fixtures over the festive period have limited his chances further still.
Garrard hinted Ranger may play a part in Saturday’s FA Trophy clash with Maidstone United, a game in which he will rotate his squad. He wasn’t part of the squad for Tuesday night’s narrow victory over Wealdstone.
“Unfortunately for us, he's come in without a preseason. We’re getting him training fit, which is great, but anyone involved in football knows training fit and match fit are two very different things.
“Trying to get him game time at the minute is the key thing for Nile. If I had an U23 team he’d have featured a lot more.
“I honestly believe he’s a talent, one I think we can benefit from when he’s match fit. If he was to go elsewhere, that club will benefit because he’s got all the tools.
“Nile wasn’t in the squad on Tuesday, but is available for the Maidstone game. It’s an opportunity for whoever does go in the squad on Saturday to keep their shirt for the following week. It’s not nice to ring players and tell them they’re not in the squad.
“ I genuinely like all of the players - I’m a human being and I don’t like people being upset,” he said.
Opportunity knocks for squad players
One player who has grabbed his chance with both hands is on loan Harrogate Town striker Danilo Orsi - who capped his full debut for the club on Tuesday night with the game’s only goal.
Following their FA Cup win over AFC Wimbledon, Garrard rested scorer Tyrone Marsh and captain Mark Ricketts. Orsi and Frankie Raymond came into the starting lineup.
He believes the healthy competition he has in the squad this season is helping the club continue to exceed expectations.
“Danilo did exactly what he needed to do - scored a goal on his debut. Frankie Raymond’s gone back into the team and done ever so well. People will be given an opportunity to get a shirt.
“When I won promotion with AFC Wimbledon, we had 2-3 people fighting week in week out for games. That’s what you need to be competitive this season. You need people to know if they aren’t delivering performances, someone else will be chomping at the bit to get in the team.
“I’m not foolish - you can’t wheel out the same team week in, week out. People will hit a wall and get tired. Making a couple of changes freshens the pack. I want to beat Maidstone and get as far as we can in the Trophy. We’re in a position to do so with the personnel we have - to be in the position we’re in, it’s brilliant,” he said.