Darren Randolph on facing the son of a childhood hero
Ireland keeper says Kasper Schmeichel has done well to move out of his father’s shadow
Peter Schmeichel with his son Kasper at Old Trafford in 1992. As a Manchester United fan and goalkeeper, Darren Randolph said he looked up to Schmeichel snr. Photo: Getty Images
When you’re born in 1987, when you’re a Manchester United fan and when you aspire to one day making it as a goalkeeper in the professional game, there’s a fair chance that among your idols will have been a certain Dane.
“He would have been one of them, yeah,” Darren Randolph smiles. “I would have had his name on the back of a few jerseys.”
And now Peter Schmeichel’s son Kasper is one of the men standing between Randolph and another of his great aspirations, playing in the World Cup finals. Funny old game, and all that.
As someone whose own father enjoyed a professional sporting career, Ed playing basketball in a number of European countries before settling in Ireland, Randolph isn’t unfamiliar with the pressures of following in paternal footsteps, basketball also his first love as a kid before focusing on football when he joined Charlton Athletic as a 16-year-old.
He salutes Kasper Schmeichel, then, for coming out of the large shadow cast by Peter and forging his own successful career. “He’s done it,” he says. “He has played for his country and he has got a Premier League medal as well to add to the [ones already in the] family, so he is his own man. He’s done very well.”
Will he have a new Schmeichel jersey for his collection on Saturday?
“If we swap them. It depends.”
He’ll see how the mood takes him, then, the result in Copenhagen determining whether he’s in jersey-swapping form.
While he was happy with the draw for the play-offs, and the final push by the team in their group, he sensed that there were some who were getting a little ahead of themselves. “People were saying congratulations. But it’s the play-offs, we haven’t actually got to the World Cup yet, so there wasn’t much point in celebrating after [Cardiff].”
“I think Denmark was probably the one everyone wanted, when you look at the teams that were in the draw, but maybe they were the same, maybe they wanted us instead of anyone else too.”
There’ll be plenty of homework done before the first leg, the players having already watched, and analysed, 20 minutes of the Danes’ draw with Romania last month. “It’ll be the same every day until we get out there and play the game. [Christian] Eriksen is the obvious one, but there are some players that we might not know too much about, so we have got to get a feel for them.”
Normally you have a look at the penalty takers, go back and see if they have a pattern or favourite side. Then it’s down to you whether you go that side
While it would do little for the nation’s nerves, there’s that possibility too of penalties determining who books their place in Russia for next summer. Randolph, though, won’t give such an eventuality much thought until it looms.
“Maybe come 88 minutes on Tuesday I’ll start to think about that. Maybe even later. But not until that stage. There’s a possibility that something might be done after the first leg. Normally you have a look at the penalty takers, go back and see if they have a pattern or favourite side. Then it’s down to you whether you go that side, how you feel on the day. But hopefully it doesn’t get that far.”
Confidence is high, he says, thanks to recent club and international results – two clean sheets in Middlesbrough’s three successive wins – that have lifted them to fifth in the Championship, as well as that performance in Cardiff.
The form of Shane Duffy in particular, he says, “gives you that extra bit of confidence as a goalkeeper”. “There aren’t that many players as aggressive attacking the ball as he is. You do feel more confident defending. Wales putting those balls in the box in the last 15 minutes probably suited us, we dealt with it quite comfortably. It’s what most of the boys deal with on a weekly basis at their clubs.”
He’s not expecting quite the same route one football from Denmark, but, he says, he and his defence will be wary of the threat posed by Eriksen’s delivery from set-pieces. “But like most teams now they’ll try and pass it around and have some rotation stuff in midfield. Try and get themselves ticking. Obviously we are not a possession team, so we’ll go there, stay organised and get a result to bring back to the Aviva.”
Before he departs. A quick question about his previous club manager. Sad to see Slaven Bilic go from West Ham?
“I’m not really bothered to be honest . . . I don’t really know what else to say. I’ll just leave that one there,” he smiles.
We’ll take that as a no.