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'When we got the equaliser, it was just crazy' - Darren Randolph

Darren Randolph’s Birmingham City achieved last-ditch survival last Saturday.

Darren Randolph has had a successful first season at St Andrews.
Darren Randolph has had a successful first season at St Andrews.
Image: David Davies

FOR BIRMINGHAM CITY fans, that extraordinary 2-1 win over Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final seems a distant memory.

Indeed, even though the club had gone 48 years without winning a major trophy before that famous day at Wembley, the past three years have been similarly excruciating.

Despite sitting in 15th place in the Premier League, with just four games left, City were relegated in that cup-winning season.

Remarkably, too, the club still found itself under the control of the notorious Carson Yeung as recently as three months ago.

Yet, last Saturday, it could have been so much worse for the Blues. With just 20 minutes left to play, the financially stricken club were 2-1 down to Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok – needing a draw to stay up on goal difference.

Somehow, following Paul Caddis’ dramatic equaliser in the 93rd minute, Darren Randolph’s Birmingham City condemned Doncaster Rovers to the final relegation place.

“I’m still on a bit of a high from all the celebrations,” Randolph told TheScore.ie.

“I’m feeling positive and it was such a relief. It’s all still pretty fresh in my memory. Pre-match, everyone was positive and even at 1-0 down, we still had chances. You have games where you have these kind of chances and nothing falls for you and you just think, ‘Ah, it’s going to be one of those days’. Then, we went 2-0 down and it was just the worst feeling for the next two minutes until we got one back.

“It seemed to lift everyone and we piled on the pressure to score the equaliser. We knew what the point meant from the fans’ reaction with how the Leicester/Doncaster game was going. When we got the equaliser, it was just crazy. The manager [Lee Clark] spoke about what’s gone on at the club, what a massive achievement survival was, and how we’ll all look back on this time in our careers. The way game played out, it will probably be shown for years but it was important for us just to stay in the division.

“There hasn’t really been any time yet to look towards next season, because we had so many games to play to try and stay in the Championship this season. Now, it’s all done and dusted, we can look forward and as good as it was to stay up on the last day, we don’t want to be down there fighting again. When you’re down near the bottom, everything can go against you and you don’t get some of the breaks. There’s intense pressure week in, week out. Next year, we’ll be looking to improve.”

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Randolph made the move to the Midlands last summer after spending three successful years with Motherwell in the Scottish Premier League.

Having finished in second place, Motherwell were set for a second successive season in Europe and while tempted by an offer from Everton, Randolph made the bold decision to join Birmingham.

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Bolton Wanderers v Birmingham City - Reebok Stadium Lee Clark celebrates his team's survival, at the Reebok Source: Dave Howarth

“Before I arrived, I had a chat with the manager and he was one of the reasons why I signed. He’s enthusiastic, passionate, and keen. It rubs off on everyone else. Anyone who known him, particularly from his playing career, will tell you that he’s a winner. I’ve enjoyed working under him this season and I owe him a lot, because he gave me the chance to play. He’s been great.

“I could’ve stayed a season longer with Motherwell and played European football again, but I just wanted to test myself. Everyone wants to get as far as they can in their profession. I always like to test myself and put myself up against others. I just think it was the right time for me to move, with a change of scenery, after three great years up in Scotland.

“The Championship is a lot more intense, with a lot more games. You’re on a bigger platform, with higher attendances. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s been a great season for me, personally. But, it’s also been tough because as soon as one game finishes, you’re preparing for the next one. Mentally, it’s quite tiring.”

Despite stiff competition from his fellow Irishman, Colin Doyle, Randolph started every single game of Birmingham’s turbulent Championship season.

With Ireland’s no1 jersey still up for grabs, could Randolph be in line to compete with David Forde and Keiren Westwood in a new era under Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane?

“Honestly, I haven’t thought about anything other than survival with Birmingham and trying to put in performances to help us stay in the Championship. Whatever else comes off the back of that will be a bonus. I was with the squad for the last friendly, against Serbia, and you can tell that the new management bring the best out of the lads. On the outside, looking in, you’re probably thinking that they’d be quite strict but the two of them like a laugh and a joke. Everyone’s settled in quite quickly and we enjoy playing for them.”

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Ciaran Kelly

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