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Monday, 22 December 2014

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WELCOME BACK: Michael Rankine returns to Holker Street tonight with Rushden and Diamonds

FORMER Bluebird Michael Rankine is looking forward to his Holker Street return tomorrow night.

The powerful 23-year-old striker should be part of the Rushden and Diamonds squad, having come on as sub in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Kidderminster

Rushden are the second team – following the Oxford United opener – to visit Barrow for a night match this campaign.

And though Rankine is excited about facing his former club, the long journey north appears less appealing.

“I’m looking forward to coming back, not the journey though because it’s going to be a long one to get there,” said Doncaster-born Rankine.

“Teams aren’t really going to want to go up there, especially in the winter when it’s cold.

“This could be to Barrow’s advantage, although they themselves will be traveling longer distances than most and this may take its toll on the players.”

Rankine joined Barrow in the summer of 2003, signed by then manager Lee Turnbull from Yorkshire amateurs Armthorpe Welfare.

Aged only 18, the AFC faithful warmed to his raw talents and nicknamed the player ‘Shabba,’ as in Jamacian dancehall recording artist Shabba Ranks.

Rankine won a move to professional club Scunthorpe United but later returned to Barrow on loan.

In January 2005 he started up front when The Iron went to Chelsea in the third round of the FA Cup.

He later played for Barrow’s then Conference North rivals Alfreton Town before signing for Rushden and Diamonds in June 2006.

Rankine netted 14 times for the Northamptonshire outfit last season, including a last gasp equalizer in the Setanta Shield final, which rivals Aldershot won on penalities.

“I really enjoyed it at Barrow, I was only young but the crowd warmed to me,” said Rankine.

“I came back on loan but didn’t really do myself, or the team, justice.

“The name Shabba stuck with me during my time at Scunthorpe, but since then no-one has called me it.

“I don’t know, maybe I’ll get called it when I come back to Barrow. I hope I get a warm reception. I might well get a bit of stick off some fans, but that’s all part of the game.”

Rankine has spent two seasons playing in the top flight of non-league football.

Rushden and Diamonds finished 16th in last season’s Conference Premier table.

Rankine has high hopes for the season, saying: “The manager has brought in a lot of quality players and there is a lot of competition for places.

“I think we should be one of the favourites, if not the favourites, to go up this year.”

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