Rankine: “Guiseley Is A Good Club That I Have Got A Lot Of Time For”

Simon Bullock spoke to former Lions striker Michael Ranking about his football career, his retirement and what he us up to now.

After starting your career in the youth system at Doncaster Rovers, you kickstarted your career at Barrow in the NPL at the age of 18 and scored 9 goals in your debut season? How was that for your first season in senior football?

Yeah, it was crazy really. It came about when I was playing for a local team Armthorpe Welfare and we played Barrow in pre-season funnily enough, because the manager Lee Turnbull was living in Doncaster and that’s how I got my move there. When I started training, I realised I had to be more professional; things like I couldn’t find my tracksuit bottoms so I had to come in shorts and I lost my head a little bit. I would say things like, “I’m not coming in to football today”, until one of the players said to me that I had couldn’t say and do things like that because I was playing at a proper level. That was the start of me playing semi-professionally and it was daunting, but I enjoyed it and I learnt my trade the right way, getting kicks and bruises from a young age, so it made me learn very quickly.

A move to Scunthorpe United came next, where you scored on your debut in League Two with a minute to go in a 1-0 win against Bury. Is that one of your favourite goals in your career?

Yeah, it was. I would have liked to have scored more goals when I was there, but scoring on your debut is always a dream come true. I actually scored the week after as well, but it got disallowed for offside, which I don’t think it was! It was a great experience for me though, as I didn’t even think that I’d be a footballer. I knew that liked football, but I never really knew how to become a professional player as I’d always just enjoyed playing for fun, so to score on my professional debut was fantastic.

Soon after, you started in the FA Cup against Chelsea. What was it like to go up against the likes of Didier Drogba, Eiður Guðjohnsen and Arjen Robben?

It was surreal to be honest. Starting the game happened by chance, as Steve Torpey got sent off the week before and he played ahead of me all the time. It was Brian Laws who gave me the nod to start the game and when you look at the likes of Drogba, who’s shirt I got at the end of the game, he’s a fantastic target-man so be facing off against him to something I won’t forget.

After a spell at Alfreton Town came a move to Rushden & Diamonds, the club you spent the longest period of time at, and in your first two seasons you hit double figures for goals. Is that the period in your career that you look back most fondly on?

No. not really. My first spell at York City is the one I was most fond of. I had two seasons at York and towards the back end of the second season we came to agreement on my contract because I wanted to stay in the Football League, and that’s when Aldershot came in nice and early, so the club knew that I was going to leave. At York I was back up north, closer to my family and I had a young son at that stage as well, so yeah, I preferred my stint at York.

In the 2008/09 season you spent a month on loan at AFC Bournemouth and it was reported that Bournemouth wanted to extend the loan for longer. Two months later Eddie Howe took charge of the side, and everyone knows what happened in the years after. With hindsight, do you wish you could have stayed to have been a part of Howe’s side, or were you happy to return to Rushden & Diamonds?

Yeah, Bournemouth wanted to keep me, it was Jimmy Quinn who was interested. Rushden & Diamonds wanted to keep me, so they turned the move down. I wanted to leave and was fuming that I wasn’t allowed to. I enjoyed my time at Bournemouth, although I would have liked to have proved myself a little bit more because I didn’t show what I could really do, but that’s football. If I could have stayed, I would.

A transfer to York City came next where, again, you hit double figures in back to back seasons. At the end of the first season you suffered the heartbreak of losing at Wembley, in a play-off final against Oxford United. Is that one of your lowest points in football?

I asked to leave Rushden & Diamonds because different managers were coming and going, and I wanted to move back closer to home. In the play-off final, obviously you dare to dream and we were one step away from being promoted into the Football League, and I’d had a taste of that at Bournemouth as well. It was a gutting moment and a tough one to take. That year we’d lost against Oxford, but had beat them as well, so we always knew that it was going to be a tough game. It just wasn’t meant to be on the day.

After two seasons with York you got a move back into the Football League with Aldershot Town. What was the feeling like, knowing your good form for consecutive years had got you a move back into professional football?

It was a proud moment because it was what I’d worked for. Richard Brodie had left that season and we had a good partnership together, but for me it was a good season. I’d always wanted to play at a high level for as long as I could, and the first six months of that season I was flying until I ruptured my ankle in January. From what I’ve been told, there were clubs looking to sign me in that January transfer window, so that was a bit of bad luck but these things happen.

Two seasons at Aldershot then led to sole seasons at Hereford United, Gateshead and Altrincham. 15 goals for Altrincham got you the move to Guiseley. How did the move come about and what about the club appealed to you?

Altrincham had offered me another deal, although they’d been relegated and I enjoyed my time there. I spoke to Mark Bower, who made me feel really welcome and I the first couple of months at Guiseley were really good, even though we got off to a difficult start. When Mark was sacked early into the season I was gutted, especially because he’d made me captain. It’s a good club and I’ve got a lot of time for Guiseley. I still come back and watch from time to time, and I really like the managers that are at the club now.

Your 8 goals helped the club to get survival on that final day against Solihull Moors. Just how was everything about that famous day?

It was a bit of a mad one for me. I didn’t want another relegation on my CV but when Mark left, I wasn’t really involved as much. The boys in the changing room were great and I’ve got a lot of time for them. I didn’t want the club to be relegated, far from it, but I got on well with the Gary Mills, the York manager at that time, as York is a club close to my heart. My loyalties were with Guiseley though, and I think that if I had of been playing in most of the games, not a bit-part player, and Mark Bower was in charge for the season I would have been a lot more over the moon.

A brief spell at York brought a close to your career, and you now operate as a football consultant? What does that job entail on a day-to-day basis?

I work for a company called Base Soccer, who are quite a big organisation. We’ve got the likes of Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, James Maddison and Dele Alli on our books, so they’re good to work for. When I was at York new management came in and it was found that I had high blood pressure, which I needed to get to the bottom of, so I thought to myself I’ve batted a good innings, it’s probably the right time to kick back and look at taking the next step on my journey. Personally, I look after quite a few players, trying to get them moves and negotiating their deals. I go and scout, looking for the next players who I think can step up and kick on to a higher level. A lot of my time is spent at games recruiting, really.

What does the future hold for yourself; do you have any ambitions to go into coaching or will you look to further your football consultancy career?

I do like the football consultancy I’m doing currently. I’ve got a lot of knowledge of football through playing for quite a long time. I think I can help the youth get to the top levels by showing them my mistakes, so they can learn from them, and hopefully get them to where they want to be. I do a little bit of property development on the side, as well. In terms of coaching, I’ve tried it out with my son’s U13 team and realised I’m not really interested in that aspect of the game, as I don’t think there’s enough longevity in it really. For me, it’s football consultancy that I want to continue on with.

We would like to thank Michael for taking the time out for this interview and hope to see him back watching a game at Nethermoor soon!

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