Suggesting Adrian be replaced by Darren Randolph might not be a popular concept – nor a romantic one. But there are deficiencies in Adrian’s game – issues that do not seem like they will go away. Those ‘taking off his gloves’ theatrics against Everton may be charming, but they oft en happen at completely the wrong moment.
I remember in that rather cagey game against Sunderland last year, on Sam Allardyce’s return to Upton Park, Adrian deciding to suddenly do kick-ups with Jermaine Defoe just yards away. Lo and behold, he almost gift ed Sunderland an opener in a game with very few chances. Adrian’s moments of drama, of passion, are not always welcome. Our first home game against Leicester City last year saw him heroically go forward for our last corner of the game to try to rescue a point. He ended up karate kicking Jamie Vardy in the stomach, studs up. Yes, maybe these are sporadic moments each season, but there is an inherent rashness that warrants an opening for Randolph. And my, does Darren deserve a chance at a Premier League match.
His first top flight game was way back in 2007, playing for the already relegated Charlton against Liverpool. His performance warranted a congratulations from Steven Gerrard, no less. But since then, Randolph has always had to deal with being back up.
That might depress and diminish another keeper but what Randolph has consistently shown is an ability to step up when needed. He was back up for Ireland until he was called upon against the world champions Germany where he managed to keep a clean sheet and provide an assist to Shane Long for the match-winning goal. Just look at those fine saves he made during the Liverpool replay in the FA Cup, particularly one on one with Christian Benteke, to keep us in the game and the tournament.
For a man constantly on the sidelines for the past nine years – both for club and country – Randolph has shown a resilience and a professionalism to make his appearances count. For me, the key reason to give Randolph a chance between the sticks is that there needs to be some change at the back. Our defence under Slaven Bilic has been our biggest weakness and we seem obsessed with either signing attacking midfielders or trying to find that key big striker. Th at was all the transfer deadline chat had been about: what strikers are we going to get in? But what about creating a decent back line, with quality in depth?