Ranger could rejoin his ex-boss at Birmingham
FORMER Newcastle manager Chris Hughton is considering making a bid to take Nile Ranger to Birmingham City. Hughton took over at St Andrews last month after Alex McLeish's controversial move to Midlands rivals Aston Villa - his first job since his acrimonious departure from St James' Park last December. Hughton is working hard to prepare his new team for life outside the Premier League, and having watched some of his first-team players depart for pastures new, the Blues boss is keen to add new faces to his squad. Hughton handed Ranger his Newcastle debut against West Brom in the club's opening Championship game in August 2008, before giving him his Premier League debut last October against Wigan. Two days prior to Hughton's sacking, Ranger signed a new five-year deal at St James' Park, but his future on Tyneside is now in doubt after current boss Alan Pardew revealed the club would listen to offers to the striker. Blackpool have already had a £1.5m bid for Ranger accepted, but the 20-year-old failed to agree terms with the Seasiders and returned to Tyneside. It could be a different story if the Blues came in for Ranger, as the prospect of linking up with his former boss could appeal to the young forward. Whether a bid come in from the Blues remains to be seen though, with Hughton under strict instructions from owner Carson Yeung that players must be sold before he can buy anyone. In the mean time, Hughton is still working hard to identify potential signings and the former Magpies boss refused to rule out a move for Ranger, who is currently on tour with the Reserves in Holland. Hughton told the Birmingham Mail: "Every day we are working on things and making inquiries about bringing players in, and there will be additions. "As he's (Ranger) one of my old players then there is always going to be speculation like this. "As I said, it's ongoing and we are looking at various options." Meanwhile, despite uncertainty surrounding his future at Newcastle, midfielder Joey Barton has revealed he is already looking towards the season opener against Arsenal on August 13. Barton is currently on tour with the reserves in Holland after his application for access into the US for the first-team's tour of the country - they play Orlando City tonight - was denied due to his previous criminal convictions. It's been a turbulent pre-season for the 28-year-old off the field, but Barton continued his good form on it when he scored his second goal in as many games in the reserves' 2-2 draw with Hollandia on Thursday night. Barton insisted he wasn't worried about missing out on first-team preparations in the US, saying it didn't matter as long as he was focused on being ready for the Magpies' trip to the Emirates in three weeks' time. He said: "I'm feeling quite sharp and I felt really strong as the Hollandia game on. I could easily have played 90 minutes but as it is, I got a nice 65 minutes under my belt, had a lot of touches of the ball and really enjoyed it. "Every season's a big season at a club like Newcastle, there's no time to rest on your laurels. You've got to keep pushing on and we've invested in a few players who all look to be good additions to the squad. "That's pre-season and whether you're out with the lads in Holland, like I am now, or with the first-team in America. I think the key is being right for August 13 against Arsenal. That's the one everyone's aiming at." n Following the pitch invasion during last week's friendly game with Darlington, Newcastle have restricted the sale of tickets for away matches including the friendly with Leeds United on July 31. While the club has taken the action to stop Premier League tickets going on general sale, only two games last season - Wigan and Blackburn - were made available to the public due to allocations being filled by members and season ticket holders.
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