01/05/2020 by Kevin Thomas
Darren Randolph Story
In this week’s blog I had the pleasure to speak with Darren Randolph, the #One Goalkeeper for the Republic of Ireland and West Ham United. The purpose of this week’s blog was to speak with Darren about his career to date and the importance of hard work, discipline and consistency. Darren is playing at the highest level in English football but has worked hard to get to where is. We spoke in detail for over an hour about his journey and I’ve no doubt people reading this will be inspired. I reached out to Darren and was “shocked” at how supportive, humble and genuine he
was. In todays society it is hard to get even a “seen” never mind a reply or a phone call!
Darren Randolph BIO:
Darren Randolph (born 12 May 1987) is an Irish professional footballer who plays as a goalkeeper for Premier League club West Ham United and the Republic of Ireland national team. Randolph has also represented Ireland at basketball.
Having progressed through the youth ranks at Ardmore Rovers and Premier League club Charlton Athletic, Randolph turned professional in 2004 with Charlton. He spent time on loan at Welling United, Accrington Stanley, Gillingham, Bury and Hereford after making his Charlton debut in the last match of the 2006–07 season. Despite the club's relegation from the Premier League, he was unable to cement a regular starting position, and had two loan spells during 2008, at Bury and at Hereford United. Having made 20 appearances for Charlton in six years, he moved on to Scottish Premier League side Motherwell in July 2010. He played regularly for Motherwell over three years, then returned to England to join Birmingham City, for whom he missed only one Championship match in two seasons. He signed for West Ham United in 2015 and Middlesbrough two years later. Darren resigned for West Ham Utd in January 2020 to continue his career at the highest level in English Football.
I was born in Crumlin and moved to Bray where I grew up. Basketball was my game growing up! My dad moved from Florida to teach basketball as part of his job and settled in Ireland. I played several sports growing up, football, GAA, Basketball and Rugby. I only played Rugby for a few years; it was ok when I was one of the bigger lads but when I started to play against
the likes of Blackrock, I decided Rugby wasn’t for me! These lads where huge! Lifting weights, protein shakes and some hard beards and this was at twelve! I loved GAA, I used to play with Bray Emmets and football with Ardmore. I used to train with Ardmore on Saturday morning and jump the wall into Bray Emmets for GAA. Id then train in Basketball in the evening. Bray was a great place to grow up in, especially in the summer. On a sunny day most people used to either drive or get the dart out to Bray for the day. Id play around the amusements with my mates or even known to be around the golf courses moving the balls after the player took their shot to get a chase! Id say there was a few angry golfers in Bray!
I miss Bray, when I go back it looks so much smaller, but I love going home, I’ve so many happy memories there.
First Big Decision
Growing up Basketball my was game. I wanted to go the America and do a Basketball scholarship. Actually, my little brother did what I wanted to do! My group of friends played GAA and Football and we all played on the same teams. Both teams were winning everything there was to win, it was great fun. When I was about thirteen, a man called Mick Carroll (RIP Mick)
approached my family after playing in the Milk Cup from Charlton Athletic. The following year I played in the Milk Cup and the Nike Premier Cup for Charlton. After that the Academy director from Charlton flew over from London and spoke with my parents and myself about joining. I was representing Ireland in football and basketball and I remember my dad sitting me down to make a decision about my future. I didn’t feel I could make it in the NBA, although that’s what I wanted to do I felt id end up doing the scholarship then returning to Dublin. Looking back, it wasn’t a hard decision. There was concerns about moving to England at a young age as the horror stories were there about lads going over and not making it and returning with no education. I remember my parents stressing this to the Educational Director at Charlton and to me.
Moving to England
After I completed my junior cert and a doss year in TY I moved to England. Playing with Ireland and Ardmore it was fun, I knew I was good. Moving over to England it was more structured. You had training, diet, gym, education and cleaning the gear for the first team. It wasn’t as fun, it was hard! I realised quickly how serious it was over in England. As I was getting full time training, I progressed quickly, within four months I was training with the reserve and first team. My natural ability took me so far, reflecting on it I certainly took it for granted. I made my Premier League debut the day after I was twenty away to Liverpool in Anfield, it was Robbie Fowlers last game for them. Charlton had been relegated from the Premier League and the number one keeper (Scott Carson) was on loan from Liverpool and wouldn’t be staying so I was confident I could be the number one. After my debut I remembered
thinking “I’ve cracked it”. I went away on holidays and enjoyed it a little too much. I came back a little overweight and not at the top of my game and that not knocked me back. The club ended up buying two new keepers and I couldn’t even get close to the first team.
I went out on a few loans and done well (excluding Hereford), I got good reports back. At twenty-three my contact ended with Charlton and I was without a club. I got caught up in the nightlife, I wasn’t enjoying my time on the pitch and thought I might as well enjoy myself off the pitch. My agent sat me down and told me if I was serious about my career then we needed to put a strategy in place. At that time the twenty-year-old Darren Randolph hadn’t been seen in a few years. We decided I needed a change of scenery and to play games consistently.
I joined Motherwell and played three years up in Scotland. We enjoyed a great few years, it was properly one of the better Motherwell teams in recent years. We had Cup Finals, European football and we finished second place two years out of the three years I was there. I was named in the SPL team of the year two out three years I was there.
Did maturity kick in? Yes, but also annoyance that other keepers were playing at a higher level and I felt I was better. It simply came down to the fact they took it more seriously than I did, and I suffered the consciousness! You go over to England at a young age, there was six young lads living together and it was good laugh. Your time in the academy can fly past so quickly at you
can miss out on the chance so quickly. You can get caught up in the wrong things but essentially you are over there to make it into the first team. Some grasp it earlier than others, and some don’t! I’ve seen the best young talent not make it, most no longer in the game at any level.
I got a move to Birmingham and enjoyed another successful two years. I only missed one game over the two years, I got sent off against Bolton and missed the following game. The first year in the Championship was tough, we just managed to avoid relegation in the first year. In my second year the team had a much better season, just missing out on the playoffs.
My performances led onto my move to West Ham. At the time it was properly a gamble for West Ham, but I was moving on a free so not as much I suppose! I felt comfortable in the championship, but I was confident of making the step up. Mentally you have the battles about stepping up to Premier League level, but that’s natural. The Premier League is quicker, stronger and more physical but also mentally, the players think quicker! Mentally it’s a big step up. I got a lucky break early on after about three games into the season. The number one keeper was suspended for three game after being sent off against Leicester. Although we lost my first game 4-3 against Bournemouth, I got Man of The Match. The second game we beat Newcastle 2-0 and third game we beat Liverpool in Anfield 3-0 (it had been 63 years since West Ham had beaten Liverpool at Anfield). Obviously, these performances gave me great confidence.
It was around the same time we were playing against Germany, obviously the game is well remembered because of the significance of theresult. I was on the bench, Shay Given got injured and I got my opportunity.
Question: Obviously, Shane Longs goal is well remembered from your famous assist, but talk to use about your celebration “the high kick swivel”? Haha, I don’t know, it just happened in the moment. I don’t generally celebrate goals as I like to stay on the one level to keep focused but got carried away in this one obviously with the assist and the importance of the goal. It was a special moment, the noise in the Aviva was incredible, it was amazing to be part of it. The high kick has not been seen since!
From there I thought the sacrifices, discipline and hard work was paying off. Simple things like missing a night out with the lads, gym work, not walking around the shops in London, staying back an extra few hour for training was paying off. I felt I finally got to the place that I had dreamed of, but knew I had to work hard to retain it!
The Darren Randolph Academy https://www.darrenrandolph.com/randolphacademy
Growing up in Ireland as a goalkeeper your taken aside from a coach or even sometimes a parent to kick balls at you. Obviously, there is a lot more technical work involved. In England the kids are being trained the “fundamentals” in the academies from a young age. The purpose of the academy is to put the fundamental structure in place for young keepers. The academy starts
as young as six years old, at that age they might not have the attention and focus but the academy gets them involved with the fundamentals from the outset, as well as having some fun. My dream is to give back to the youth Goalkeepers of Ireland and give them the training, support and skillset needed to perform at their best level, and all the resources they need to move up through the ranks in the game. I am delighted to give back, if even only one Goalkeeper makes it then it’s been a huge success.
Quick Fire Questions
Best Player you’ve ever played against? It’s hard to pick just one, we played against Spain in New York one year. They had Casillas, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Ramos, Torres, they were all special. In the Euros we played against Belgium and the had De Bruyne, Lukaku, Hazard. We got knocked out by France and they had some special players, Pogba, Griezmann. The German team we beat that night had some special players too. Its hard to pick one, the only special players I’ve not played against is Ronaldo and Messi.
Favourite Food? This comes back to sacrifices and learning from my mistakes. Although I didn’t know much about vegan food-based diets, I decided to move to it, and I’ve maintained it. Before then, I’d have to say pizza, it’s hard to find a vegan pizza!
FIFA or Pro Evo? I don’t play computer games anymore, but I used to play FIFA with my little brother growing up, so it has to be FIFA.
Golf or Basketball? That’s an easy one! I’ve been the driving range a few times to smash a few balls, but I don’t have the patience for golf. It’s more technical than you think, it’s not for me! The only time you’ll see me on the golf course is driving the buggy. Basketball has always been my game, obviously my dad had a big influence on me, but I love it!
London or Dublin? Dublin, as much as I love London, Dublin(especially Bray) is home. I’ve grown up in London, most of my friends are here and there is always something to do, it’s a special city. Growing up in Bray has so many happy memories, reflecting on it you definitely take it for granted.
Covid-19 routine? The club have a daily training routine. It starts off with a run in the morning at around 8am, breakfast then chill, session at around 12pm, again at 3pm and around 7pm. I’ve also started an online course on stocks/trading. It’s like learning another language but I want to develop myself and keep busy during isolation.
What advice would you give people during Covid-19? Firstly, listen and stick to the guidelines. Use the time to your benefit not your disadvantage. Learn something new, a new skill or even something about yourself. There is so much opportunity, use your imagination.
What advice would you give people about pursuing their dreams? Firstly, they are achievable. I had a natural ability but without hard work, persistence and discipline I wouldn’t be where I am today. You must make sacrifices, but you will achieve your dream with the right mindset. I am big believer in PMA (positive mental attitude).
Do you think we will qualify for the Euros (2020/2021)? I was gutted when it got cancelled when it did as I though we might have an advantage playing behind closed doors against Slovakia, but it is what it is I suppose. Although the playoff off against two different teams it’s still two one off games to qualify. Obviously, we are under new management and will want to do it for them, but we will obviously want to do it for Mick, TC and the staff. Hopefully it will be two more special nights for the Irish.
Reflection – Kevin Thomas
As I highlighted at the beginning, I found Darren to be extremely humble and such a genuine person. Darren consistently mentioned his “raw ability” but he has worked extremely hard to achieve what he has achieved to date. Making his debut at twenty, in the Premier League and against Liverpool is a dream of most young boys! After such a high Darren got an immediate set back but didn’t give up. It might have taken him a little longer to get to the level he dreamed about, but he got there due to his hard work, discipline and consistency. Coming back slightly overweight Darren made a huge sacrifice to his diet, he took the learnings and used them to his advantage. Does hard work beat talent, yes when talent doesn’t show up consistently. Darren has proved that you must combine ability with hard work, without it you will fail. Darren is in the peek of his career yet found the time to setup his own academy, giving back to the young Goalkeepers in Ireland, again a testament of how supportive and humble Darren is. Speaking with Darren I could hear the strong values passed down to him by his parents and I have no doubt they came from his FOO (Family of origin). These strong values combined with raw ability, discipline and consistence has Darren playing at the highest level of English football. I am in awe of the person I spoke with; I was taken back at how genuine and supportive Darren was.
Darren, thank you for your time and support. I hope you enjoyed the read and I’ve no doubt our readers will be inspired by your story.