I’m a fan of Darren Randolph.
He’s a great shot stopper with impressive reflexes, an outstanding attitude and he rarely lets anyone down with his distribution.
He patiently waited in the wings for well over a season to become West Ham’s number one and rightly came in for Adrian after the Spaniard’s calamitous display against Stoke back in November.
I’m also a fan of Adrián. He can be frustrating in his own, uniquely eccentric way, but he is the type of player that opitimises a passionate football club like West Ham United.
Sadly it seems to have become fashionable among West Ham fans of late to pick one side or the other, Team Adrian or Team Randolph, with discussions over the club’s goalkeeping department devolving down to well-reasoned arguments such as “Randolph is sh*t.”
The situation hasn’t been helped by constant speculation over the possibility of Joe Hart moving to West Ham in the summer – a great move if true, but we all know Liverpool are going to get there first. Adrián’s contract is set to expire in the summer and for all intents and purposes he appears destined to move on, which is a big shame.
West Ham fans never took fully to Adrián San Miguel del Castillo. Sure, we all loved him. Everyone loved his passion. But something was always missing, concerns were always there.
When Adrián first joined the club, Jussi Jääskeläinen was our number one. He was past his prime but undoubtedly a consistent goalkeeper who enjoed a number of great performances in a West Ham shirt – just don’t mention free kicks.
Adrián waited patiently and eventually dislodged the Finland international with some outstanding, albeit erratic performances. But his high tempo, brash and borderline arrogant style unsettled many calmer heads in the Hammers crowd and Adrián was never quite able to shift his image as an overly flamboyant, erratic presence at the back.
And he’s made some clangers. Oh, how he has. Keepers only need to make one to be lambasted and he – like every goalie we’ve ever had – made a few.
Who could forget him letting an easily-saveable Theo Walcott shot go right through him against Arsenal just after he broke into the team in 2013?
Or what about his moment of madness away to Southampton when he received a red card after handling the ball way out of his area?
His mistake against Stoke in November where he rushed off his line to gift the Potters an equaliser was a final nail in the coffin of Adrián’s reputation as far as many Hammers were concerned.
He was simply being arrogant again, they said. Too flamboyant, that Adrián.
The thing about time passing is that it heals wounds, and like a jump-off relationship turned sour many Hammers are beginning to realise that Randolph’s place as number one shouldn’t just be an automatic given.
Up until Randolph finally came into the side after the Stoke game, Adrián had – cup games aside – seen his spot on the team sheet remain virtually unchallenged. He became complacent. Before the Stoke game, he hadn’t been committing many errors but it didn’t matter – it felt like he had.
Before it became clear that Dimitri Payet was the poison spoiling the beginning of West Ham’s season, Adrián was one of the false negatives diagnosed as a problem.
He wasn’t one. He was rightfully dropped at the time and now it is time for his return, if just until the end of the season.
Darren Randolph’s honeymoon period has faded and people are beginning to realise that we have two, arguably equally good goalkeepers at the club. One isn’t massively superior to the other.
But Adrián offers something different. He offers memories. He offers Di Canio-esque passion and an unforgettable knee slide after smashing in a penalty against Everton. He offers countless, absolutely vital point-blank slaves which have saved us however many points over the seasons.
Randolph’s form has deteriorated. Anyone can see that. He let in two soft goals against West Brom and no one seemed too surprised. But he hasn’t been subjected to the same level of bile that Adrián was when he did the same. Neither of them should have to be, but it’s unfair either way.
In my opinion, Adrián is the better goalkeeper. I like his unbelievable reflexes which have to be seen to be believed. When an opposition attacker cruises through on a one-on-one I feel like Adrián is probably going to get a hand to it more than half the time. I can’t say that about Randolph.
If the choice is between Robert Green flapping at corners, Jussi Jääskeläinen watching free kicks fly over his head, Darren Randolph getting nutmegged for the 74th time or the basket case that is Adrián San Miguel del Castillo – I know who I’d choose. And I’d choose Adrián every time.