Why Darren Randolph’s return is a small boost to West Ham’s survival hopes

The goalkeeper gives Irons strengh in depth, but is it a case of too little too late?

In a season of woe, where one disaster has been quickly followed by another, it’s quite difficult to identify one single low point.

But surely the goalkeeping situation which we found ourselves in over recent months would be a prime candidate for this particular ‘award’.

We can all try and put Roberto’s (shudder) antics to the back of our minds (just to recap, played 10, conceded 22 including pushing the ball into his own net against Burnley), but the fact remains that once Fabianski got injured, our season took a downward trend and has never recovered from that point, mainly because the lack of a suitable backup and a subsequently leaky defence.

Our recruitment policy can best be described as appalling, with what you might argue was the absolute nadir on 15th January.

This was when the board, and manager, finally acknowledged that the goalkeeping department was in crisis with the re-signing of 32-year old Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph.

He returned from Championship side Middlesbrough, after two and a half years, for a fee of around £4m.

Let’s not forget the circumstances of Randolph leaving: Joe Hart’s arrival pushed Adrian down the pecking order, and subsequently forced Randolph to seek first team football elsewhere.

Prior to that, Randolph was a starter in the cup competitions, but not considered good enough to consistently start in the league, until his opportunity arose towards the middle of the 2016/17 season, in a 3-2 defeat at Tottenham.

He kept his place for 22 matches before Hart’s transfer from Manchester City.

Randolph has also played in some memorable matches, including the first ever competitive fixture at London Stadium (a 3-0 win In the Europa League qualifier against NK Domzale, and the answer to a future quiz question).

He also started in the famous last match at the Boleyn Ground: that memorable 3-2 win against Manchester United, which now seems like a lifetime ago.

Who would have thought that less than three seasons later, he might as well be riding his trusty steed, galloping back to West Ham in order to save the day?

‘West Ham is a massive club, with fantastic supporters and an excellent squad of players,’ Randolph said.

‘It’s a great challenge for me. I am really looking forward to working with the goalkeepers here and helping the team in any way I can.’

He’s not wrong about the “challenge” part — things at West Ham appear to be the worst they’ve been for a while.

I’ve always had a lot of time for Randolph. He arrived at West Ham in the summer of 2015, after making the trip down the M42 from Birmingham City, and I think he’s a decent keeper.

His first foray in the Premier League came with Charlton Athletic back in 2007, before he moved north of the border, signing for Motherwell.

I always thought that he played well for us, even if he was forced to sit on the bench for large parts of the stint that he was with West Ham the first time around.

In fact, a lesser-known nugget is that he won the “Save of the Season” award for his flying fingertip stop from Jordan Henderson at Liverpool back in December 2016.

Watch it if you can; it’s brilliant, seeing him fling himself high and to his left.

His performances at West Ham didn’t go unnoticed: during his first spell with us, he also established himself as the number one goalkeeper for his country.

Indeed, it was thanks to his contributions that the national side went unbeaten in their opening six World Cup qualifiers.

What Randolph offers, above anything else, is the sense of professional solidity that appears to have been missing from that position over recent months.

Roberto was a disaster, and whilst David Martin was drafted in and started in the 1-0 win against Chelsea, and whilst we all love him, he’s also made mistakes.

Did we ever feel truly confident with him in goal? If we did, it quickly evaporated with his howler against Sheffield United.

To be honest, my feeling about Martin being in goal, nice guy though he is, was more just relief that Roberto wasn’t there.

Randolph is an experienced goalkeeper who will provide more than able backup for Fabianski.

The damage to West Ham’s season, of course, has already been done, but at least as we head to the conclusion of the season — and an unexpected relegation dogfight — we have, at last, a couple of options in that position.

So, I for one am glad that Randolph has returned. Whether or not he will actually save our season and help us prevent the drop, though only time will tell. BBM

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