Ex-Mag reveals fascinating Hatem Ben Arfa & Nile Ranger stories – The NUFC enigmas

Former Newcastle utility player Ryan Taylor spoke to Gallowgate Shots Youtube channel, on his time at the club.

Always well thought of by the fans, Taylor came to the club in January 2009, on the back of scoring against us in 4 consecutive games for Wigan Athletic. Some say we only signed him so he could stop scoring against us, but that was proven wrong throughout the years. He (Taylor) ended up scoring 10 goals for us in all competitions, in which all of those seem to be great goals! Taylor goes down in Newcastle folklore after his free kick against Sunderland and from that day he was nicknamed ‘over the wall’.

During his interview with Gallowgate Shots, he was asked about the ‘wizard’ Hatem Ben Arfa’s time at the club. Watching as a teenage Newcastle fan, Ben Arfa was one reason why I was always excited to go to St James’ Park, to see his tricks and skills and try and replicate them myself. 

Taylor revealed how good Hatem Ben Arfa was: “He’s embarrassed players when in full flow against Barcelona, I’ve never seen a drop of the shoulder like it in my life and people just get sent (the opposite way). Honestly his feet, left foot, right foot, mainly left footed but he could still use his right. You just couldn’t show him on his right as he’d still slot it past you. He just had something I’d never seen before in players I’ve trained with.”

There was always something stopping Ben Arfa from becoming that world class player all Newcastle fans were craving, his attitude.

Taylor went on to say, “But on the flip side of that, he had bad days. You would just think, you’ve got so much talent, just do something! However, that could be on a Tuesday, and by Thursday you would think he’s back. But for him to keep switching it on and off, is probably the reason why he was never there (the very top).” 

When asked if he could’ve been world class and at the top of the game he (Taylor) said, “A million percent, I think he got a leg break at City which didn’t help and I don’t know who he used to be around or speak to, but they probably did not help with how he progressed. Until the penny dropped when he was training with the kids at Newcastle. Pards (Alan Pardew) just couldn’t control him, and to see a player like him (Ben Arfa) training with the kids day in, day out not helping the first team, it was such a waste. I could understand it. When he did train, he could upset the team and as a manager the team is more important than one player.”

“Him on a personal note, he could’ve played the best level ever. He was that good on this day. You look at him and think, who scores those goals? Name a player now in the Premier League who could do that versus Bolton, Blackburn. You don’t see those goals, they’re for special people. So if he could do that, why couldn’t he do it a lot more? And again, that comes from in there (his mind), I’m telling you.”

Personally, I believe Ben Arfa could’ve easily played for a top European Club – playing in the Champions League. However as you see too often, the attitude of a player gets in the way of becoming a truly great footballer. 

Taylor was also questioned about another youngster who he trained with on a daily basis with an attitude problem, of course Nile Ranger. He (Ranger) was a quick, powerful forward who burst through the Academy scene and made his first team debut against West Brom in August 2009. He impressed in that season in the Championship under Chris Hughton, and was subsequently handed a 5-and-a-half year contract at the club. The controversial youngster made his name more frequently with non footballing matters, which is always a problem when you’re a professional footballer playing in the Premier League. Posing with guns on social media whilst involved in gangs, money troubles, fights on nights out. None of it sounds like someone who should be representing Newcastle United and being one of the hottest prospects in England as Taylor suggested. 

“I was always one trying to help Nile, but he was tough because again, he had a lot of talent growing up. He was in every England set up for his age and progressing nicely, always training and getting in squads. I used to get on his back – get a bag of balls and use your left foot. He’d never like using his left foot.”

“I’ve seen it with quite a few players across my career, there’s only so much you can help them with and there’s only so much time you can give people without them saying, just leave me alone! But they don’t say that, he just says yeah, yeah, yeah.

“All he wanted to do was go home and play on his Playstation, go on a night out in town and have a fight. How can you control it? He’s a young boy living the dream, and you know what Nile was a really nice kid. It seemed like it just came from people who he’s with on a daily basis.”

“Disappointing looking back, thinking to where he (Ranger) could’ve got too. And again, never fulfilled it.”

Ranger only managed 3 goals in 58 games for the Toon, and living every young lads dream in Newcastle – featuring in the Europa League away to Bordeaux. Similar to Ben Arfa his head was elsewhere, instead of producing the talent we know he had on the training pitch and importantly, first team games.

You can watch the podcast in full below:

Stats taken by www.soccerbase.com

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