Darren Randolph is desperate to end this season with a smile on his face after suffering a double bout of misery.
The 31-year-old Republic of Ireland and Middlesbrough goalkeeper went into the last campaign dreaming of promotion to the Premier League and a trip to the World Cup finals, but emerged having just missed out on both courtesy of play-off defeats by Aston Villa at club level and Denmark on the international stage.
Randolph will embark upon Ireland’s Nations League campaign in Wales on Thursday evening, and will do so with Boro sitting second in the Sky Bet Championship table on goal difference.
Asked if last season’s disappointments are fuelling a fresh drive for Premier League, he replied: “We didn’t have enough to get to the final, so we came back this year and expected to be up there again.
“We always want to go further than we did last year, so a lot is expected of us, and we don’t want the same feeling from the end of the season this year as we did last year.
“It’s been a great start. We have spent a lot of time on the training pitch working on different things, and it’s paid off so far.
“It’s only the start of it, something to build on, but everyone’s very happy so far.”
In the meantime, Randolph will concentrate on the business of helping to launch his country’s Nations League campaign with a positive result in Wales on Thursday evening.
He was part of the Ireland team which won 1-0 in Cardiff in October last year to book a play-off showdown with Denmark, and admits that night ranks alongside the famous recent victories over Germany and Italy.
Randolph said: “It’s up there for what it meant in the group, so we’ll be going back there again looking to do the same and get off to a good start in these competitive games with the Nations League.”
Preparations for the game have been overshadowed somewhat by Declan Rice’s decision to make himself unavailable as he considers England’s attempts to lure him in to their set-up, and Harry Arter’s withdrawal following a difference of opinion with assistant manager Roy Keane.
However, Randolph said: “We’re in here now and there’s a game on Thursday so there’s not much time to be worrying about other stuff, that will take care of itself whenever it does.”