A FORMER Premier League footballer has been cleared of a charge relating to an accident on the M4 near Magor services earlier this year.

Nile Ranger, 23, appeared in Newport Magistrates’ Court today charged with being in charge of a car while being above the alcohol limit, a charge he denied.

The court heard the former Newcastle United striker was a passenger in a Mercedes car that crashed on the hard shoulder on the M4 eastbound before the exit on junction 23 in the early hours of the morning on February 2. Mr Ranger was in the car along with three others going back to Swindon after a night out in Cardiff when the car crashed.

A recovery van arrived at around 6am and saw Mr Ranger in the driving seat, with the car’s engine running, and the keys in the ignition. Mr Ranger failed a roadside breath test which showed he had 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath. The limit is 35.

At first he had told a police officer he was the driver of the car but later denied it was him, adding it was he who owned the vehicle.

Speaking in court today, Mr Ranger, of Gordon Gardens, Swindon, who has just been released from his contract with League One side Swindon Town FC, said he had moved to the driver’s seat to “stretch my legs” because of a pain in his knee. He admitted to being “quite intoxicated” but denied the charge on the grounds he had no intention of driving the vehicle, something the magistrates agreed with.

Recording a verdict of not guilty, the magistrates said: “There is no dispute that you were in charge, but on the balance of probabilities we believe there was no intention to drive that vehicle.”

Speaking after being cleared today, London-born Mr Ranger told the Argus: “I’m very happy and I just want to move on with my life now.”

When asked by the Argus if he was looking for a new club, the striker added: “Yeah, there are a couple of clubs interested. But it’s my last chance, I’ll tell you that much.”