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'When it’s put to you as bluntly as it was, there was no point in me staying'

The Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph said it was ‘a race to see who could get out the door first’ after he learned Joe Hart was joining West Ham.

Randolph during Ireland training this week.
Randolph during Ireland training this week.

DARREN RANDOLPH KNEW he had to get out of West Ham for the good of his career — both at club and international level.

The Wicklow native had been with the Hammers two years, where he wrestled the number one shirt from Adrian before finding himself dropped by manager Slaven Bilic for the final month of last season.

A new goalkeeper became the West Ham manager’s priority and Joe Hart was brought on loan from Manchester City this summer. As soon as he got wind that the England international would be joining, 30-year-old Randolph made the decision to angle for a move elsewhere.

“I heard about Joe Hart coming in at the end of last season,” he explains. “I went away on holiday and then came back to Ireland for the Austria game. It was clear he was going to sign and that there was a race to see who could get out the door first.

“It was made clear that he was going to play so when it’s put to you as bluntly as it was [by Bilic] there was no point in me staying.”

With West Ham still needing a back-up goalkeeper, Randolph made sure it was him leaving ahead of his Spanish team-mate Adrian and joined newly-relegated Championship outfit Middlesbrough on a four-year deal in July.

I wanted to be playing games so I had to get out,” he adds. “I just think with the situation we were in they weren’t going to let both of us go.”

Having established himself as first choice for Ireland in 2015, the former Charlton Athletic, Motherwell and Birmingham City stopper remains determined to hold onto the shirt with the prospect of an appearance at next year’s World Cup on the horizon.

“Yeah, because I couldn’t expect to keep playing if I’m not playing at club level so that was definitely a factor,” Randolph replied, when asked if his international career was a major factor in the decision.

Manchester United v West Ham United - Premier League - Old Trafford Joe Hart has come in at West Ham. Source: Richard Sellers

Randolph linked up with Ireland team-mate and fellow recent arrival Cyrus Christie at Boro, and Garry Monk’s side went into the campaign as favourites to make an immediate return to the top flight.

With five matches played, however, they sit ninth on seven points but he has been satisfied with his own form so far.

“They managed to keep hold of most of the squad from last year,” Randolph says. “I got good reports on the manager and I was getting the chance to go and play games. Plus, they were one of the favourites to go back up.

I’ve had a good enough start — three clean sheets out of five — so I’m happy with that. We’ve had two wins, two losses and a draw so that could be better but it could be a lot worse.”

Ireland fly out to Tbilisi this afternoon a World Cup qualifier with Georgia before they welcome Serbia to Dublin on Tuesday. With just four matches remaining and only goal difference separating the Boys in Green and the Group D leaders, Randolph maintains the result is all that matters on Saturday.

“It seems a tough place to go,” he says. “For me personally, I’m not bothered about the performance as long as we get the win and the points on the board — especially at this stage of the group.”

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Ben Blake

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