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Sunday 11 December 2016

Randolph: It's all to play for between the posts

Ireland goalkeepers Keiren Westwood (left) and Darren Randolph at squad training. Pic: Sportsfile
Ireland goalkeepers Keiren Westwood (left) and Darren Randolph at squad training. Pic: Sportsfile

Ancient philosophers believed that humans are divided into four different temperament types. Darren Randolph would have caused those lads no end of confusion.

Back in the days when they wore bedsheets to work in Athens and spent hours thinking about things, they figured that people were either melancholic, phlegmatic, sanguine or choleric.

Randolph is at least three of them rolled into one and you could even have a debate that he covers the lot.

He's thoughtful and quiet (melancholic), fairly optimistic and sociable (sanguine) and always seems relaxed (phlegmatic).

"Football is full of highs and lows. 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," he said.

He certainly doesn't see himself as a leader (choleric) but it may well be that the quiet man in the corner with a grin on his face before a game brings players with him in his own way.

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

"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 said, underlining the distinct change in his make-up since he played basketball.

Short temper

His father Ed was one of the first professional imports who shook up Irish basketball in the 1980s.

"Playing basketball, I had a short temper. I wasn't the most patient person and not just in sport. In everything. Something my Dad tells me when I'm younger, I said, whatever!"

"Maybe I've learned some wisdom but it's working," said Randolph.

He thinks before he answers, which is unusual in these days of battery footballers, programmed by club media planners and handlers to say nothing at all at the touch of a button.

Randolph is a planner too and right now, he is precisely where he hoped to be, even if it took longer to get there than he thought it would.

'There' means playing in the Premier League and playing senior international football in France at the European Championship finals.

"It was a plan when I first went to Scotland to go and get some games and try get back down to the Championship to play and then eventually try and get into the Premier League. It's taken a while but I've managed to get there.

But he's not quite there really. Not in his own head. Is he the Ireland numer one goalkeeper for Euro 2016?

"I don't think so. It's open to everybody. It's just the way I'm approaching it. The boys that are here, 'keepers-wise, they want to play. I've got to keep training for the next week and ten days and see who gets it.

"You can't relax and think that you have a place, as we've seen throughout the campaign but it's good healthy competition. Things change through injuries more so than form.

The closer it gets everyone has little thoughts and daydreams. It's only natural, the closer it gets," he said with a smile.

"I think everyone would like if you're in to stay in. When it comes down to who is playing and form, it relates to the manager's decision who he picks to give people the jersey to."

Knowing O'Neill's ways, it could be very close to kick-off time against Sweden before he finds out for sure if he holds his spot.

"It could be. We could find out in the changing room," said Randolph and from the look on his face, that's an expectation rather then a possibility.

He reckons he's sharp enough to start. Luck, excellent form and a good FA Cup run gave him enough football to maintain the level goalkeepers require for match sharpness.

"I don't see why I wouldn't be. We've all got to be here training regardless of when games finish. We're all away in training camp for the same amount of time, same game time for the country before the tournament starts.

"I'd like to think with the FA Cup run and the league games I've had and then the games with Ireland that it's enough game time in the season.

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

It's curious to think that Randolph by his own admission, came close to taking up an offer from the USA to understudy Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, now stands on the brink of a dream start against Sweden.

He's pragmatic as well as everything else and clearly gave the USA offer some serious thought.

Similar

"I still would have been in a similar situation. I would have been behind Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. 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 was there or thereabouts but it's irrelevant now," said Randolph, who is now an active recruiter for the FAI rather than a potential recruit for the USA, with Mark Noble the target.

"I spoke to Noble . . . I don't know . . . several times. He's a very good player. He's one of those players who is even better when you go and see him. He's played for England all the way up so he's pretty committed but I'll try."

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