I t’s been another interesting summer for the Daves and their chequebooks, and after letting Jussi Jaaskelainen go at the end of last season, there was an opening in the goalkeeping position to be filled. Step up Darren Randolph. Signed from Birmingham City on a free transfer, Randolph comes with plenty of experience in lower leagues and the Scottish Premier League, but can he cut it in the English Premier League? My gut instinct tells me that Randolph will serve as a back-up ‘keeper for the Hammers.
Adrian has firmly cemented his place in the first team now and there is no hint of dropping him. But even as a second choice, the Irishman has to be at the top of his game in a season that is so crucial to West Ham. In what we hope will be a busy season, a solid second goalie will be a key factor in times like these.
We’d hope for a good run in the Europa League, the FA Cup and League Cup to add to a strong Premier League campaign and if Adrian needs a rest or (God forbid) he picks up an injury, Randolph will be the man. So, what’s he got? Well we’ve seen a brief glimpse of him already in the Europa League qualifiers, but to be honest we can’t gather much from that.
At 28 years old, he’s not a spring chicken, but for a goalkeeper he should be hitting peak form. He’s on the edge of the Republic of Ireland squad, but hasn’t really been called into action on an international stage. As a player, Randolph seems to be one of the guys you can rely on when you need him, especially in his latter career years, but he’s never been a great stayer.
His longest days were spent at Charlton, and at Motherwell he impressed in his three seasons. It has to be said that he impressed enough there to oust John Ruddy from his fairly solid place in the team. In 136 starts for the Scottish outfit he racked up 42 clean sheets, which is a rate of 31% for those of you, like me, who like a percentage thrown in. Despite his final season there being less successful in terms of shot stopping, some of the saves he made saw him selected for SPFA Team of the Season in 2012/13.
As an interesting side note, he also represented the Republic of Ireland in basketball. At 6ft 1in he’s no giant but he’s openly admitted that it was his first passion, more so than football. Seems as though he made the right choice for his career and hopefully his basketball skills have made him a better all-rounder between the sticks. Randolph hasn’t been without his controversies; he faced a two-match ban in 2012 as Motherwell ‘keeper, following a very high challenge on Hearts’ Callum Paterson.
After examining footage of the incident in which Darren appears to kick Callum in the face, I draw two conclusions: first, he might have a bit of a spiteful side, if not overly aggressive and secondly he’s really quite flexible! As far as his upcoming Hammers career goes, the signs are promising that he’s a suitable and reliable number two to the almost ever-present Adrian.
Of course, you all know what a fan of the Spaniard I am, but research suggests that should the main man require a rest, Randoph will be welcomed into the side. Will Adrian need a rest? That is the question. It really depends on so many factors. Should West Ham make good progress in the Europa League and domestic cups, it’s hard to see how any player won’t need a break. If Bilic fancies placing full trust in Randolph, the League Cup seems like a good challenge for a backup ‘keeper. To give him the chance in such a competition would keep up the internal competition for the goalkeeping shirt and hopefully he’ll be keen to impress.
I wouldn’t necessarily say we’d be taking any cup as a ‘practice’ this season either. The board is out to impress and trophies attract both fans and players looking to join in the future visions. Ultimately, his key role is to be ready for anything that league and cups could spring on him. We might be as reliant on Adrian as any club is on their number one ‘keeper, but there’s a lot to be said for big squads of players who are up for any challenge. To be competing at a consistently high level, we need men like Randolph to have the commitment and skill that any good substitute should have.