NILE Ranger celebrated his promotion-clinching goal for the Owls by stripping off his shirt to display a T-shirt carrying the message: “I am a changed man.”
The striker has explained to The Star that he wanted to proclaim that he is on the straight and narrow after off-field problems in the past.
“I’ve got into a bit of trouble before.” said the 21-year-old who has had brushes with the law in Newcastle.
“I think I’m growing up. People make mistakes; there have been times when I’ve thought about what I’ve done; you grow up and learn from it. I’m doing that.
“I’ve seen a lot of things in the area where I’m from, and been influenced by the wrong crowd.
“I’m going down the right path now and trying to make my family proud.
“I’ve done things off the field that were silly and stupid.
“The message on the T-shirt was to show people that’s a thing of the past.”
Ranger, who was brought up in London, spent the last six weeks of the season on loan with Wednesday after arriving from Newcastle United with something of a bad-boy image.
During his time on Tyneside he was in trouble for drunkenness and driving offences, and for comments he made on Twitter. He was also accused of assault, for which he is due to face trial in Newcastle this summer.
But while he has been at Wednesday all the spotlight has been on his football.
Showing pace and power, he has been Gary Madine’s partner up front and scored an important goal in the 2-0 win away to promotion rivals Huddersfield last month.
The striker also headed the second goal against Wycombe last Saturday and was involved in other major incidents as the Owls sealed promotion at Hillsborough.
He headed a first-half goal that was wrongly given offside by a linesman, and was involved in the build-up to Michail Antonio’s strike.
Ranger’s challenge on a defender, after Madine headed on a kick by keeper Stephen Bywater, resulted in the ball breaking to Antonio, who ran through to score.
In the second half, Ranger had a shot blocked and created a chance for Madine.
As with other loan players, Ranger’s future is now unclear. But he must have been highly regarded by Newcastle when in 2011 he was given a five-year deal.
When asked what comes next for him, he said: “I don’t know. I’ve got four years left at Newcastle.
“Anything can happen. Things can change. We’ll have to wait and see. I’ve enjoyed it here. It’s experience. It’s been a good spell for me.”
Ranger played in the Championship while on loan for a month with Barnsley before Christmas and, having seen the higher division, believes that the Owls can make their mark in it. “Wednesday are a good, strong, positive side; I can see them going all the way,” he said.
Owls manager Dave Jones will be signing copies of his book, No Smoke No Fire, at Hillsborough’s Megastore tonight, 5pm-6.30pm.