Not only was his first-team place at Scottish Premiership club Motherwell far from assured, but he was also well down the pecking order in his ambition to one day be first-choice goalkeeper for the Republic of Ireland.
The 29-year-old from Bray reflects on the past 18 months, where he has risen to No1 goalkeeper for both club and country.
The son of Ed Randolph, an American college basketball star who crossed the Atlantic to play professionally in Ireland, Darren has waited patiently for his opportunity. Internationally, he first consolidated his place for Ireland in the Euro qualifiers — and then cemented it in the finals.
For West Ham, he did as well as he could when picked for cup ties last season, but with Spanish stopper Adrian seemingly immovable, was perhaps looking to move on again. Then, against Watford in early September, Adrian made the first of several mistakes which two months later culminated in Randolph earning his promotion.
Since then, the laconic Irishman has kept his place. “Four or five years ago, I wasn’t even getting picked every week for Motherwell and I was fourth choice for the Republic of Ireland,” he recalled.
“Contrast that with the last 18 months, where I’ve played in the qualifiers and the finals of the Euros for Ireland, plus the World Cup qualifiers and I’ve played for West Ham in the Premier League.
“Yes, you could say it’s been a good time for me but I’ve had to be patient. I started at Charlton when they were in the Premier League but they went down to League One and it’s hard to get back to the top once you’re not there any more.
“I knew when I came to West Ham that I had to be patient. Last season, I got a chance in our FA Cup run and that led to the international scene, which was a massive help in terms of confidence.”
West Ham’s two goalkeepers could not be more different. While Adrian is now and again prone to excitability, Randolph is so laid-back as to be almost horizontal.
“People are always asking me why I’m so chilled out, but it’s a case of finding out what works for me. It’s taken me some time to work that out,” he said. “There are other players who are more lively and vocal but it’s down to the individual.
“People have said that, to them, it looks as though I think it’s too easy — but I don’t. When I’m out there it feels as though I’m moving at 100mph, even though I might not be.
“I am my fiercest critic. I never walk off a pitch thinking I’ve had the perfect game. It can be one goal-kick that doesn’t go quite right — that sort of thing eats away at me.
“Some goalkeepers don’t get on but Adrian and I have a good relationship,” he continued. “To be a goalkeeper, though, you have to be single-minded, a bit more dismissive about what others might think in comparison with outfield players.”
Randolph knows that a goalkeeper’s prospects can change quickly. Already he has seen that England No1 Joe Hart is headed for West Ham this summer
“There’s nothing I can do about that,” he said. “That’s not my decision, I don’t own the club. If you have someone like him and he’s available, he’s going to be linked with clubs.
“That’s football. As a professional, you just keep playing until someone better comes in through the door.”