Inside Irons: Darren Randolph on Farewell Boleyn, inspiring Michail Antonio and Tomas Soucek's ridiculous running stats!
Darren Randolph is set to play in another high-profile fixture when Republic of Ireland take on England in an international friendly at Wembley Stadium on Thursday evening.
But, of course, it will not be the first time the West Ham United goalkeeper has pulled on his gloves with the eyes of the nation focused on him.
As he told West Ham TV’s popular Inside Irons series, Randolph has kept goal in huge games for both the Hammers and Ireland, including the final FA Cup tie and Premier League game at the Boleyn Ground in 2016, both of which were against Manchester United, and the UEFA Europa League win over Domzale of Slovenia in the first-ever match at London Stadium, as well as four ties at UEFA Euro 2016 in between.
Looking back, the 33-year-old was happy to be part of such a memorable period, and part of one of the best West Ham squads of the 21st century.
“The 2015/16 season, the squad was unbelievable,” he recalled. “I have a commentary sheet from Clive Tyldesley from the last game at the Boleyn against Man United that I’ve got framed and the starting eleven and the subs were frightening. That was a strong squad, hence how well that season went.”
I’ve come back and Michail Antonio is on fire and is up there among the top goalscorers and it’s down to me!
Randolph departed in 2017 in search of regular football, joining Championship side Middlesbrough, before returning to London Stadium in January this year. Since then, under David Moyes, the Irons have thrived, and the Irishman joked the two events were no coincidence!
“It’s all down to me!” he smiled. “I’ve come back and Michail Antonio is on fire and is up there among the top goalscorers and it’s down to me! I don’t know, I came back at a lucky time, I guess!”
While Randolph’s presence has clearly boosted morale at Rush Green, the man himself said Moyes’ demand for higher fitness levels had made an even greater difference to the Hammers’ performances and results.
“I came in just after the manager came in and one of his big things is the running and fitness and stats and distance covered and those kind of numbers,” the No35 revealed. “He said he got here and said West Ham were in the bottom three or four in those kind of stats and that wasn’t simply good enough for him.
“Then we had the whole lockdown situation and we were all given programmes to do and then we all came in to be tested and gradually everyone’s numbers came up and now some of the distances the boys are covering in games are just ridiculous.
“Tomas Soucek himself alone can cover 13 or 14km in a game and I’ve never played with someone who covers that much distance in a game, ever. We then come in for a warm down the next day and he goes and does another 5 or 6km around the training ground. He’s a machine!
“To have those numbers and match that with the quality and ability is unusual, because you normally have one or the other – quality but no running or a runner who is not very good – but Tomas does both!”