Sport Republic of Ireland

Thursday 22 June 2017

'You can't relax and think you have a place'

Randolph's laid-back outlook helped him seize chance but he won't give up No 1 shirt without fight

Darren Randolph goes through his paces during training in Cork. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Darren Randolph goes through his paces during training in Cork. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

The son of cool is cooling off away from the sun.

They say goalkeepers like to remain on the edge of intense pressure but Darren Randolph instead takes the edge off. Like father, like son.

Big Ed Randolph is nearer 60 than 50 these days and can still be seen shooting hoops with a veteran team, but one of the US stars of 1980s big-time basketball in Ireland has always been a laid-back figure.

So too the chip off the old block. It hasn't always been the case.

"Football is full of highs and lows," says the man who started this European Championship campaign out of favour for both club and country but finished it as number one man for each.

"I probably got the attitude from my dad growing up, even playing basketball. I had a short temper. I wasn't the most patient person and not just in sport. In everything.

"I've learned wisdom. Something my dad told me when I was younger. I said, yeah whatever. But it's working and that's about it over the years."

Ed had to acquire his own sense of balance down the years too, mind. "He has a little bit of red mist but most of the time he's calm," we are told.

Martin O'Neill sometimes reckons Randolph is too laid-back for his own good; surprisingly, Roy Keane is rather less concerned by the netminder's languid nature.

"It's just a role I like to take," the West Ham man explains. "Different people try and lead a team. Other people just sit back and let other people do the talking.

"Everyone has a different temperament to deal with things. I could quite easily be the one running around screaming and shouting but it's not my character.

"I deal with things how I deal with things, and what might work for me might not work for someone else.

"Some people might like it, some people might not like it. It's down to the individual or the people, you know? That's kind of how I am.

"I'll say some stuff before a game but I'm not the loudest one in the changing-room. You don't hear me."

He will approach the tournament in the same way; all the Randolphs are heading over and, despite terrorism, hooliganism and strike activism concerns, he intends to see more than just his hotel room and the leafy Versailles training complex.

"I'm excited," he says, belying a sitting pose that is almost horizontal in its easy elegance. "I missed out on the last one. I'm more excited to go and see the tournament as a whole and not just our three games.

Streets

"But to also see the streets when we're going to a game. And if we don't have a game, seeing the other countries' fans around the place. The tournament itself I'm looking forward to."

He has been pin-pointed as being in possession of the No 1 shirt - for now; that he only received it a moment's notice, during that unforgettable home clash with Germany, reminds him how fickle the post has become in recent times.

"The closer it gets everyone has little thoughts and daydreams," he says when asked about the prospect of starting against Sweden on Monday week. "It's only natural. The closer it gets. . ."

And yet, it could all have been so different. Randolph had played all Ireland under-age grades but his father's nationality afforded him a genuine shot with the USA - father and son were languidly unmoved by the seemingly pressurised dilemma.

"I would have been behind Tim Howard and Brad Guzan," he says, confirming that telephone contact was made with the Americans. "It's not like I would have walked right in and been in a better position than I am here.

"I had to weigh up those options. What am I going to do? Travel all the way over there to do the same thing I was doing when I travelled with Ireland?

"I had grown up with World Cups in the past and watched both Ireland and the USA. I'm hoping they never draw each other and then I'll be fine!"

He knows his ascension has, partly, been due to the misfortune of others, chiefly injured Newcastle netminder Rob Elliott, while the special goalkeepers' union reserves sympathy for exiled colleague David Forde.

He spoke to Forde again on Tuesday night and has seen Elliot recently following his operations; the perspective granted by the torment of others helps to keep him firmly grounded.

"I'd like to think with the cup run and the league games I've had and then the games with Ireland that it's enough game-time in the season," he notes.

"I was quite lucky how the international and cup games kind of came one after the other. I didn't have to go five or six months without a game.

"You can't relax and think that you have a place, as you've seen throughout the campaign, but it's good healthy competition.

"Things change through injuries more so than form, so I suppose it's a bit of luck that most people need."

This is Randolph's third trip to Fota Island; twice with both West Ham and previously with Birmingham City, shortly after he moved from Motherwell, where he had been stationed while Ireland were qualifying for the previous European Championships.

Flourishing

In many ways, the surrounds chart the Bray-born 29-year-old's belated but flourishing progress as a professional.

"Yeah, last year, I was thinking, nice little sunny pre-season tour with West Ham and then 'where are we going?' Oh Fota! Three years in a row! It wasn't raining, it was like this. I've been lucky."

Lucky and good. The Eureka moment for Irish fans - Randolph colourfully recalls his reaction as 'Oh sh*t!' - was when he was dramatically called into the fray against Germany.

Launching the most famous Irish goalkeeping assist since Pat Bonner gritted his teeth at Italia 90 propelled him into the front rooms and hearts of thousands of new devotees.

"I could have had a few days to think about it and it could have been different," he remembers. "I'd like to think my temperament was an advantage then."

It has been passed down from father to son and proved its benefit to Randolph when sudden vacancies at West Ham and Ireland arrived with almost consummate timing.

"Just get on with it, go on and play."

Irish Independent

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