West Ham door opens for Darren Randolph at crucial moment
Darren Randolph is set to prepare for a starting role at Euro 2016 by stepping in for the concluding three games of West Ham's Premier League season.
A calf injury to first choice Adrian has opened the door for Randolph who feared his season was over after the loss to Manchester United in the FA Cup.
West Ham still have an outside chance of sneaking into a Champions League spot and Slaven Bilic said yesterday that he has full confidence in Ireland's first-choice netminder. The Londoners host Swansea today and play United again on Tuesday in the final game at the Boleyn Ground before travelling to Stoke next weekend.
"Adrian felt his calf after the West Brom game and reported it to me," said Bilic, "It's minor but unfortunately because it's his calf he is out against Swansea and probably for the rest of the season.
"We have a great deputy in Randolph when we've needed him. Whenever he has stepped in he's been brilliant."
Goalkeeper inactivity has been an issue for Martin O'Neill but Randolph is the one that matters so the extra matches are a boost provided he can avoid a mishap.
The Irish boss is in that worrying period where a minor injury can become a big issue. Roberto Martinez has indicated that he might wait another week before pitching Seamus Coleman back into action at Everton while Mark Hughes has ruled Marc Wilson out for the rest of Stoke's season but says he will be fine for Irish duty. But a lack of match sharpness could leave the defender in a spot of bother. Jon Walters could start for the Potters at Crystal Palace today.
Shane Long is Ireland's form striker and Southampton boss Ronald Koeman says the £12m man has improved significantly in the past year.
"I think in all aspects of football he has learned a lot," said Koeman.
"He is more complete as a player, as a striker. His pace, his timing, his movements are full of confidence. For me, he is one of the biggest examples of how a player can develop with the help of coaches."
Meanwhile, Ireland's Euro rivals Italy have suffered a major setback after midfield dynamo Marco Verratti was ruled out of the tournament. The PSG star will have surgery on May 16 to resolve a long standing hernia problem that has failed to clear up.