It’s not often you have a dilemma with goalkeepers.
Normally a club will have one first choice stopper who is always the first name on the team sheet. Then there’s his understudy who is only called upon in the early rounds of cup competitions and if injury strikes. An absolute last resort.
Last season, though, Slaven Bilic found himself with two goalkeepers who were both worthy of being first choice in one way or another. So going into this summer, with a number of other positions in the side a priority in terms of strengthening, it was a surprise to see Joe Hart arrive on loan and Darren Randolph sold to Middlesbrough just days later.
But would West Ham have been better off keeping Ireland’s number one? In two seasons at West Ham, the goalkeeper improved with gametime. His first campaign saw him make just six Premier League appearances – 15 in all competitions – keeping six clean sheets overall.
Last season we saw a lot more of him, but his record of just six clean sheets in 27 appearances in all competitions doesn’t exactly make for good reading. That is partly down to our calamitous defence throughout the entirety of the season and although it would be unfair to judge Randolph purely on that record, it soon became apparent that an improvement was needed in that area of the side.
Both Adrian and Randolph are Premier League standard goalkeepers, but with our high ambitions, Hart’s arrival does represent an immediate improvement in many ways. Randolph’s biggest weakness was his inability to command his defence, particularly at set-pieces. His indecisiveness led to mistakes, most notably in the dying stages of the 2-2 draw at Sunderland. It’s this kind of unreliability that may have convinced Bilic that a new goalkeeper was needed, particularly as Adrian had made just as many costly mistakes earlier in the season.
In the end, though, Randolph paid the price for what had essentially become a dilemma for Bilic. Ultimately, Joe Hart’s availability made Bilic’s mind up for him and Randolph was sent to Middlesbrough for a nice £5m profit. He wasn’t the worst ‘keeper we’ve ever had and he was clearly capable of pulling off the odd world class save. In the end, though, they were not enough to save him.