“I was really happy there,” he points out. “It was tough to leave in that sense because I loved my time there. There are some great people at the club but, at the same time, I need to look after myself. I didn’t think they would have had the start that they’ve had but, if you look at it, it was always going to be tough when they’ve got no home games for the first month. The results haven’t gone their way so there’s obviously more pressure for the first home game against Huddersfield after the international break.”
In truth, of more interest now to Ireland’s goalkeeper is how Middlesbrough will fare in their effort to gain promotion from the Championship – and, for him, the knock-on benefits of being the man once again in possession of the shirt at his club as Ireland bid to reach Russia 2018.
Randolph had started into the season expecting to be fighting for his place at West Ham but with the club’s decision to bring in Joe Hart it didn’t take him long to read the writing on the wall.
“There was a contract extension on the table,” he says, “but when we eventually met up, by the third or fourth day I was looking for an exit strategy. It all happened very quick. They had bent over backwards to get him (Hart) in so it made more sense for me to get out. The way it was put to me, it was made pretty clear.
“They probably still wanted me to stay anyway (as back up). It wasn’t a case of ‘thanks but no thanks’ - it was my choice to leave. It wasn’t a case of ‘get out the door, we don’t want to see you’.
“So I could have stayed there and waited and who knows what might have happened after four or five months or however long it might have been. But I needed it done quick. Middlesbrough had actually come in for me at the end of last season but West Ham had said no. So when I wanted to get out, I got back in contact with them. I pretty much needed to get it done in a couple of days and they were good enough to get it done.” His ambitions to help Ireland qualify for the World Cup played a part in his decision.
“It was one of the factors but not the main one. I just wanted to play. I can’t expect to play here (with Ireland) if I’m not playing at a club. I got away with it before for a few months at West Ham. We had a good cup run so I was getting a few games in between the Irish games. But I couldn’t do that for a whole season and expect to play. From the manager’s point of view, I don’t think he could just accept me setting on the bench for the whole season and then expect me to go and play in World Cup.”
Despite having had to take the a long and not always scenic route to the top of the football tree in Britain, Randolph insists that it wasn’t a difficult decision to drop down from the Premier League: “It wasn’t because I wanted to get there (to the Premier League) and I did that,” he explains. “I felt like I’d got my reputation back. So I’ve been there and done it and I know how good I am. So I’ll just move on, and keep enjoying life.” And football. Arising out of all the ups and downs of his career, he seems to have developed a way of taking whatever the game throws at him in his stride.
“Obviously at the start of my career, I wouldn’t have had all the game experience that I have now. You learn more about yourself and football. You can have the best week’s training you want and still go out and lose the game and not play well. You can have the worst week’s training and go out and be unbelievable. Every day and every game is different. Whatever happens, happens.” And what does he reckon might happen in Tbilsi tomorrow?
“In football, you come up against some so-called smaller teams and everyone thinks it’s a walk in the park but a lot of the time those are the hardest games. You see big teams go places and lose and it’s a massive upset. Having been the smaller team in many games, we know that you tend to raise your game against the bigger teams and make it difficult. And a lot of the time it can be just the odd goal that separates teams.
“But there’s no reason we shouldn’t be confident going out there. I wouldn’t say anybody in our group is arrogant. It’s definitely self-confidence because you’ve been there before. I’m not saying you just go into the games thinking it’s going to be easy. You know it’s going to be tough and you have to do the horrible things, the dirty stuff first and then hopefully the quality comes off the back of that. As long as we’re prepared to do all that, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t come out on top.”