Darren Randolph: It felt like I hadn't been away
For West Ham United’s latest signing, there was a sense of déjà vu on Saturday afternoon as he stepped out to start against Everton.
As goalkeeper Darren Randolph walked onto the pitch moments before making his second debut for the Club – breaking stride to touch the white paint at the side of the pitch – the Republic of Ireland international drank in the sights of London Stadium, but not for the first time.
Randolph rejoined West Ham from Middlesbrough last week after two-and-a-half seasons in the North East, having made 42 appearances in Claret and Blue over the two preceding campaigns.
“It was very good to be back. In a weird way, because there are so many of the same faces here, it doesn’t really feel like I’ve been away!” he smiled afterwards.
“I’ve been around the training ground before. There’ve been a few new faces in the team, but I’ve played in the stadium before, so there weren’t as many nerves as I probably expected there to be.”
I had it in my head from before the game not to go and prove anything, just to deal with what you have to deal with, and just get on with the game
While the goalkeeper was not regularly tested on Saturday afternoon – the Hammers restricted their visitors to just three shots on target in the Premier League encounter – Randolph impressed on the few occasions he was called into action.
The pick of the Irishman’s saves came shortly after the half-time when Theo Walcott directed a low cross-cum-shot across the face of goal, forcing Randolph to stretch and palm away while getting strong enough contact on the ball to divert its path beyond the awaiting Moise Kean.
Such awareness of his surroundings kept the scores level at 1-1, after West Ham defender Issa Diop’s first-half glancing header was cancelled out by Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s poached effort moments later.
Speaking after the game, Randolph was modest in crediting his team’s overall performance with his assured showing on the day.
“It was a nice game for me to come back into,” he admitted. “I had it in my head from before the game not to go and prove anything, just to deal with what you have to deal with, and just get on with the game.
“It was unfortunate obviously for Lukasz [Fabianski] to be injured, but I’m just happy to be back and able to play.
“There’s still a lot of the same faces player-wise and staff-wise around the Club, so it’s made it that bit easier to settle back in and probably made today easy for me as well.”
As for his time outside of east London, Randolph believes the playing time he has garnered in the Championship has made him a more useful asset to the Hammers upon his return.
“Better? I don’t know, I’m just more experienced," Randolph reasoned. “[I’ve more] game time.
"Obviously I’ve played more games at international level too. I was probably only on four or five caps before, but now I’m close to 40 caps, so with that comes experience and obviously playing in big stadia and big-pressure games.
“I don’t think I’ve a point to prove. I’ve gone away and been able to play games and probably push on my profile a little bit more, probably even more internationally, since I left, but I’ve always wanted to have a crack at coming back to the Club.
“I’ve got the chance to play some games and come back and push [Lukasz Fabianski] as hard as I can, and hopefully it’ll work out for both of us, pushing each other, and it’s best for the Club. I think that’s what every team needs – pressure and competition in every position.”