Fending off Aston Villa and Stoke City reports was crucial for Middlesbrough and Darren Randolph
Following an excellent season in which he won the club’s and players’ Player of the Year awards, it was probably inevitable that Middlesbrough goalkeeper Darren Randolph would attract some interest in the summer.
First there were reports that Championship rivals Stoke were monitoring the Republic of Ireland international, 32, as a replacement for Jack Butland, while Premier League newcomers Aston Villa were also credited with interest.
Whether the reports were genuine or merely speculation, Boro and new head coach Jonathan Woodgate made their stance clear.
“I’m 100 per cent sure Darren Randolph and Britt Assombalonga will be at the football club come Thursday,” said Woodgate just over a week before the end of the transfer window.
Woodgate is one of many who think Randolph is the best keeper in the Championship, and the shot-stopper’s performance against Reading on Saturday certainly supported that claim.
Since his move to the Riverside from West Ham in 2017, Randolph has improved his consistency and all round game. He’s a commanding figure and isn’t bad with his feet either.
His departure would have left a huge void in Boro’s backline. The club’s No 2 Aynsley Pears, 21, has shown lots of potential but is still yet to make his league debut for the Teessiders.
Randolph can also help bring on the club’s young prospects. “He’s an example to the younger keepers,” said Woodgate after the Reading win.
New Boro goalkeeping coach Danny Coyne has also labelled Randolph the ‘ultimate professional.’
Most importantly, though, it never looked like Boro’s prized assets wanted to leave the Riverside, which is testament to the environment which has been created.
You only have to look at Randolph’s Instagram account to see how much he thinks about every game, while Assombalonga and Paddy McNair, who were also linked with moves away recently, have talked about how they are enjoying their football this season.
Randolph seems settled at Boro. Unlike at West Ham he is playing regularly for both club and country and appears to be at the top of his game.
That is excellent news for the Teessiders, who know they can rely on their man between the sticks.