Bilic's backing for Randolph
West Ham boss leaps to defence of Irish 'keeper
West Ham boss Slaven Bilic says he won't drop Ireland international Darren Randolph and has promised to stay loyal to the Wicklow native even though a poor run of form has left Randolph's position in doubt.
Randolph has made 22 Premier League appearances this season, having dislodged Adrian from the No. 1 slot in November.
He kept his fourth clean sheet of the season in the 1-0 win over Swansea two weeks ago but Randolph was blamed for the concession of both goals in last week's 2-2 draw at Sunderland, yet boss Bilic says he has no plans to make a change, a relief for Randolph and Ireland manager Martin O'Neill.
"I don't like to change goalkeeper on a game-by-game basis," he said. "Randolph has been waiting for his chance for a long time and he has done well for us. So you have to stay behind players, especially keepers."
While there is still an eight-week wait for the next qualifier, at home to Austria, boss O'Neill already has a number of issues to contend with and a loss of form for his No. 1 keeper is not part of the plans.
Robbie Brady returns from the suspension which sidelined him at home to Wales last month but it's unlikely that Shane Duffy and David Meyler will feature due to injury while Seamus Coleman is definitely out due to the broken leg he suffered against Wales.
Duffy broke a bone in his foot against Nottingham Forest and last week Brighton boss Chris Hughton admitted it was "touch and go" whether the Derry native would play again this season for a Seagulls side who have already secured promotion to the Premier League. Duffy is desperate to play in June but his club may insists that he focuses on getting fit for the new season.
Preston captain Greg Cunningham has been unable to make it into the Ireland squad of late but he now has no chance of featuring in the three games in June after he also suffered a broken leg, in Monday's league defeat to Norwich City.
"Greg's got a fracture to his leg which means he'll be out for the rest of the season, but hopefully he'll be back for pre-season," said Preston manager Simon Grayson.
"He's a top a lad and tried to carry on. A brave, brave player, one of the best players that I signed at this football club and it's unfortunate that this incident has happened.
"Obviously it's serious, but it's not too serious that it's going to rule him out for months and months. I think it's a six-week turnaround which will have him ready for the pre-season, so we'll get him sorted and see him in pre-season."