Belfast Telegraph

Randolph takes a fall to stay Republic's number one


By Damien Spellman

Darren Randolph will head into the Republic of Ireland's World Cup qualifier in Georgia admitting he had to leave West Ham to preserve his international career.

The 30-year-old keeper hopes to win his 23rd senior cap in Tbilisi tomorrow evening as the Republic bid to cement their grip on one of the top two spots in Group D, but will do so having completed a summer move to Middlesbrough.

It may have been a difficult decision to swap the Premier League for a Sky Bet Championship promotion fight, but having been told by Hammers boss Slaven Bilic that loan signing Joe Hart would be his number one this season, Randolph did not have to think twice.

He said: "It was made clear that he was going to play, so when it's put to you as bluntly as it was, there's no point in me staying. I wanted to be playing games so I had to get out. I couldn't expect to keep playing (for the Republic) if I'm not playing at club level, so that was definitely a factor."

News of Hart's impending arrival signalled the start of a race between Randolph and Spaniard Adrian, the man from whom he had taken over during the second half of last season, to leave West Ham, and it was the Irishman who got over the line as Boro came calling in July.

"I just think with the situation we were in, they weren't going to let both of us go. They would have had to keep one and then let one go."

A run of three clean sheets in his first five games for Boro has underlined Randolph's quality, and he will be favourite to retain the starting berth in Martin O'Neill's team at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena, despite Newcastle counterpart Rob Elliot's return to fitness.

He said: "You need that in every team, competition in every place. Rob being back adds more quality and more competition.

"I've had a good enough start so I'm happy with that. We've had two wins, two losses and a draw, so that could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse."

If a swift return to the Premier League is the overall priority at club level this season, Randolph's eyes are set firmly on next summer's World Cup finals with the Republic in a strong position to qualify.

Group leaders Serbia are due in Dublin on Tuesday, but the keeper knows they currently have control of their own fate.

Randolph said: "We're in a very good position. It's still in our hands, which is nice. We'll concentrate on Saturday and move on from there.

"It (Georgia) seems a tough place to go. For me personally, I'm not bothered about the performance as long as we get the win and get points on the board, especially at this stage of the group."

‚Ą¶ JAMES Chester admits that the Republic's Group D rivals Wales can not afford to slip up again.

"The next four games are pretty much must-wins," he said ahead of their clash with Austria in Cardiff.

"But the experiences we've had at Cardiff and some of the results we've had in big games gives us really good memories. Saturday brings another opportunity to feel that way."

  • Georgia¬† v Rep of Ireland, World Cup Group D qualifier: Dinamo Arena, Tbilisi, tomorrow, 5.00pm

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