FORGOTTEN man Nile Ranger will get a chance to prove his credentials in Bordeaux tonight as manager Alan Pardew hands him a Europa League start.
The 21-year-old striker, whose off-field antics and persistent lateness had seen him fall dramatically in the pecking order at St James’ Park, will start at the Stade Chaban- Delmas as the Magpies attempt to snatch back top spot in Group D in the final round of fixtures.
Ranger was among a party of 20 which belatedly left Tyneside this evening after heavy snow kept them grounded for more than three hours at Newcastle Airport.
He was included after Pardew saw a marked improvement in the attitude of a man whose last senior start for the club came against Aston Villa in April 2010.
Pardew said: ‘‘Nile will start. I think he’s probably the story of the last two or three months in terms of a positive.
‘‘He’s been out of the papers, he’s been on time for the last eight to ten weeks and he’s put in application on the training ground.
‘‘I’ve never said to anyone ’It’s all over, you’re not getting a chance’. If you stick to the rules and put the ethic in, I’ll give you a chance.
‘‘And that’s all it is for him at the moment, a chance, and we hope he takes it. We know he’s got talent. Hopefully he puts it in on the pitch.’’ Ranger will be one of several young players in the starting XI for a game which will test the depth of both squads.
Pardew’s opposite number Francis Gillot has indicated he will rest senior men with Bordeaux needing only a draw to ensure they finish top of the group, while Sammy Ameobi, Shane Ferguson and Gael Bigirimana have got the nod for the Magpies.
Pardew admits his side has been selected with one eye on Monday night’s Barclays Premier League trip to Fulham as he looks to back up the 3-0 win over Wigan, and admits both he and Gillot could be largely in the dark as they draw up their tactics.
He said: ‘‘Obviously, we have got to protect ourselves for Monday night, which is an important game for us, but this has its own importance.
‘‘We have got a very young side which is going to start, so we just hope we have got enough in that team to keep us in the game and then – obviously, the draw is no good for us – look to win it towards the end.’’ Gillot admits the draw for the next round could pitch both sides into a difficult tie whether they win the group or not, a sentiment Pardew agrees with. He added: ‘‘I don’t think it really matters in actual fact.
The occupancy of top spot might not be relevant when the draw is made because obviously it’s determined by country, and there are a few other little rules that are in there. But nevertheless, we still want to remain undefeated in Europe and finish top.’’ That would be some achievement after Pardew and his players arrived in France hours after they intended to after being hit by an icy blast as they prepared to leave.
However, the 51-year-old was refusing to use that as an excuse. He said: ‘We can’t possibly use the delay as an excuse.
Half of the north was stopped; the A1 was shut when we flew over it. We are okay, we are good to go.’’ Meanwhile, Pardew confirmed that Jonas Gutierrez and Hatem Ben Arfa are expected to be fit for the trip to Craven Cottage, and Davide Santon, Demba Ba and Cheik Tiote could make the trip.