If Joel Randall needs a mentor, then who better to advise him than his old man?
Exeter City’s talented 20-year-old winger has had a fine start to the new campaign and scored his first goal in a 2-2 draw at Salford City on the opening day of the League Two season. But there to keep his feet firmly on the ground is Randall’s father, Adrian, himself a former footballer.
Unfortunately, Randall snr’s career was cut short due to a problem with his hips, but not before he played over 300 times for Bournemouth, Aldershot, Burnley, York City and Bury, before winding up his career at Forest Green Rovers.
He remains York’s record purchase after the Minstermen paid £140,000 to the Clarets for his services in December 1995. But perhaps the greatest testimony comes from Harry Redknapp, who described Randall as ‘a genius’ having been his first manager at Bournemouth.
“He was a genius,” Redknapp said of Randall snr. ”Six foot tall, he used to glide over the pitch, juggling the ball on his foot… He could do it all.
“We used to play him against Tony Pulis in training and he’d tie him in knots, but he never really made it. He was so laid-back in his attitude. You just wanted to shake him, because this was a talent like I’d never seen.”
Randall is now at a similar age to his father when he first broke through at Dean Court in the 1980s, where he made only six appearances for the Cherries before leaving for Aldershot, then a Football League club. There, Randall made the Recreation Ground his own before going on to reach – and play – in the Championship with Burnley.
“My Dad was a pro. He played for a few clubs and he was a good pro as well,” Randall said. “He came through at Bournemouth and played for Burnley in the Championship so yes, he had a very good career himself.
“I was too young to watch him play because his hips went! It’s unfortunate because I would love to have seen him play. He has shown me some YouTube clips of him playing, so that is the best it’s got really.
“When he was coming through at Bournemouth, Harry Redknapp was his manager and he absolutely loved him. He loved the way he could play and it was really nice seeing that quote about my Dad in Harry’s book.”
Adrian Randall will no doubt have experienced plenty of ups and downs throughout his 14-year professional career, so in terms of a sounding board, is there anyone better for Joel to turn to?
“He’s been great with me really,” Joel added. “Ever since I can remember kicking a ball, he has always given me advice and kept me level-headed. He’s been there when I have not been doing so well out on loan and not in the team and he’s been there when I am scoring my first goal in League Two, so it is lovely to come back to him and ask him for advice. He really is great for me.
“He has definitely experienced those ups and downs and that is always what he tells me – you can’t get too high off scoring on Saturday, but you can’t get too low if things aren’t going great. You just have to keep going, keep working hard on the training ground and things will eventually turn for you and it will turn positive.”
Randall is the latest in a long line of youngsters to have come through the club’s Academy and followed a well-trodden path of non-league football before reaching the first team. He joined the Academy at the age of 11 and had numerous loan spells after signing his first professional deal in 2018, along with team-mates and fellow Academy graduates Harry Kite and Josh Key.
Now, having been given a chance in the first team at St James Park, Randall – a star performer for the side that reached the EFL Trophy semi-finals last season – is determined to take it with both hands.
“Coming into the season, I have thought that this has to be the season where I stamp my authority on the team and on League Two,” he said. “Hopefully, I can play as many games as possible and create and score as many as possible.
“I have had five loan spells now and I am only 20! I have been in a lot of dressing rooms, some of them worked out and some of them didn’t work out, but every dressing room and every place I’ve been I have tried to learn something football-wise and tried to better myself as a person as well.
“Those loan clubs definitely help you get into the first team and then, when you get there, you have to do your thing, but I will always be grateful for those loan clubs that took me and created the path for me to reach League Two.
“It’s amazing. Some of those changing rooms – the lads would get back late on a Tuesday night and they are saying they have work at 6am in the morning and I have the day off because that is the difference between the two careers.
“It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication just to get to League Two, but it doesn’t stop there. I am still young and I still want to improve and I hope I can kick on now.”