BAS­KET CASE BLUE

Birm­ing­ham No.1 Dar­ren Ran­dolph on his bas­ket­ball back­ground

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Jamie Holt

HIS DAD was one of the first Amer­i­cans to play in the Ir­ish Bas­ket­ball League and his younger brother is on a schol­ar­ship in the United States – so is it any won­der Dar­ren Ran­dolph re­lies on his hands for a living?

Like the rest of his fam­ily, all the Birm­ing­ham City goal­keeper wanted to do was play bas­ket­ball grow­ing up in Bray, 12 miles south of Dublin.

But he soon caught the at­ten­tion of foot­ball scouts with his sharp re­flexes and 6ft 2in frame and, be­fore he knew it, Ran­dolph was an age-grade in­ter­na­tional in both sports.

Push even­tu­ally came to shove and foot­ball won out. A move to Charl­ton in 2003 was the cat­a­lyst for a ca­reer that now sees him named in Ire­land’s squad for their up­com­ing Euro 2016 qual­i­fier against Poland on March 29.

And the 27-year-old, who was at­tract­ing in­ter­est from Pre­mier League clubs in Jan­uary, cred­its his early days tread­ing the court for his rise.

“I’d cer­tainly like to think play­ing bas­ket­ball gave me a good ground­ing and safe hands – some peo­ple might like to ar­gue about the safe hands part though,” joked the for­mer Mother­well No.1.

“I used to play bas­ket­ball all the time when I was younger and a schol­ar­ship to Amer­ica is all I re­ally wanted. But grow­ing up, foot­ball was ob­vi­ously the big­ger sport in Ire­land and all my mates were play­ing that.

Jug­gle

“It got to the stage where do­ing the both of them was hard to jug­gle. I played for Ire­land in both when I was younger, but they of­ten clashed on the same day. I came to the de­ci­sion I had a bet­ter chance in foot­ball.”

It would be hard to ar­gue Ran­dolph’s de­ci­sion has not paid off. But with his dad, Ed, still play­ing in the IBL at the age of 54 and his younger sib­ling, Neil, shoot­ing hoops in New York for Elmira Col­lege, are there any re­grets?

“My brother has the brains of the fam­ily, that’s the only re­gret,” laughs Ran­dolph. “He’s go­ing to grad­u­ate in May, come back, do his Masters and tour Europe.

“My dad is still go­ing now, and he came over when it was quite big and he helped the sport grow. He was part of the first group of Amer­i­cans who came over in the 1980s to raise the pro­file.

“It’s not as big as it was back then, or even ten or 15 years ago, be­cause the money has dropped out of it.”

Ran­dolph has been one of the few bright spots in an oth­er­wise trou­bled past cou­ple of years for Birm­ing­ham.

He helped the Blues es­cape rel­e­ga­tion on the fi­nal day of last sea­son and his per­for­mances have earned ad­mir­ers from far and wide – in­clud­ing new boss Gary Rowett who has steered the Mid­lands side out of trou­bled wa­ters of late.

Hon­est

A new deal is on the ta­ble for the twice-capped stop­per, and he re­vealed that an agree­ment is get­ting closer.

“It’s still there, we just need to hash it and get it over and done with,” he added. “All the boss has asked is that I’m hon­est with him.

“He gave me Jan­uary to look around and there was in­ter­est from a cou­ple of Pre­mier League sides and a few Cham­pi­onship sides as well.

“I heard about the ru­mours of Celtic as well. I never spoke to any­one from there and nei­ther did my agent. I don’t know where that ru­mour came from at all, but I have been let­ting the boss know what’s been hap­pen­ing.

“I’m happy at the club.The boss has tar­geted a top-half fin­ish and we’re on the way to achiev­ing that. The league is so tight we could re­ally push on.”

Boro are back on song with the 4-1 thrash­ing of Ip­swich – Pages 14-15

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

BAS­KET CASE: Dar­ren Ran­dolph in typ­i­cally de­fi­ant ac­tion for Birm­ing­ham City

SAFE HANDS: Dar­ren Ran­dolph, cen­tre, could have been a bas­ket­ball player like his dad Ed, left, and brother Neil, right

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