UPDATE (12:30 PM CST, 2/22): POLL ADDED
Alan Pardew has been working with 19 year-old striker Nile Ranger on an individual basis and has been impressed with his improvement, according to Lee Ryder of The Chronicle.
Nile is going to be vital for us between now and the end of the season. We keep talking about professionalism to him and he’s taking it on board. His time-keeping has improved and he’s starting to improve at the training ground now on a daily basis. That all bodes well – he’s getting better as a player.
The time-keeping bit refers to an incident where Ranger was late for training, which may explain Pardew's reluctance to insert Nile into the starting lineup. Pardew had stated previously that he views Ranger as purely a substitute at this stage of his career, leaving only three healthy strikers available for selection. It remains to be seen whether or not the manager's recognition of Ranger's improvement will result in a change of role.
In my opinion, Ranger belongs up front with Peter Lovenkrands, at least until Shola Ameobi returns from his cheekbone fracture. What do you think?