Darren Randolph relishing Stockport County return for FA Cup third-round tie
Next Monday’s Emirates FA Cup third-round tie at Stockport County will hold no fears for Darren Randolph.
The West Ham United goalkeeper has played at Edgeley Park before, helping Bury to a 2-1 League Two victory over the Hatters back in February 2008.
Then just 20 and on loan from Charlton Athletic, Randolph lined up behind a defence led by long-throw king Dave Challinor and bandana-wearing Efe Sodje to defeat a Stockport side that included a young Ashley Williams and which was managed by the same man who will lead them against the Hammers on Monday evening, Jim Gannon.
Nearly 13 years on and Randolph is a vastly experienced 33-year-old with more than 450 senior appearances and 50 international caps for the Republic of Ireland under his belt.
We see upsets and shock results every year and we don’t want to be on the receiving end of one of them
“It’s an FA Cup tie and I am looking forward to playing at Stockport again, as it’s a long time since I went there and played on loan for Bury!” he smiled. “I can’t actually remember the score, but I do remember it was at the same ground where Sale play rugby.
“I have played against non-league teams before, so I know it won’t be a simple task to get through by any means. I played for Charlton at Northwich Victoria as a youngster and was on the bench for Birmingham up at Blyth Spartans, too.
“I’ve also been on the other side of things, playing for the smaller team, so I know it’s a one-off game and it’s not hard for a team to raise their game in an FA Cup tie. We see upsets and shock results every year and we don’t want to be on the receiving end of one of them.”
While Randolph knows it would be foolish to look past a Stockport team riding high in the National League, he also knows West Ham have an opportunity to reach the fourth round and, if all goes to plan, start down the road to Wembley.
Five seasons ago, he and his Hammers teammates were just seven minutes from reaching the semi-finals, only for a controversial Anthony Martial equaliser to secure Manchester United a replay, which they won 2-1 at the Boleyn Ground.
The memory of those ties, and in particular Bastian Schweinsteiger’s challenge on him that enabled Martial to score at Old Trafford, still burn bright in Randolph’s mind and serve as a motivation to go one better, at least, this season.
“It would be nice just to have another run like we did back in 2016, when we got to the quarter-finals, and I still think about those games a lot even now,” he recalled.
“If the luck of the draw is on your side and you beat the teams you are meant to who are put in front of you, you can find yourselves in the quarter-finals and then it may reverse and we would be the underdog, but it’s only one game and you can get through.”