Rotherham United: Mark Randall interview

Many young graduates at Arsenal's footballing school of science would have been embarrassed at the thought of dipping their toes in the backwaters of League Two.

Not Mark Randall.

The Gunners schemer is more than happy to swap a comparatively easy life in the reserves at the Emirates Stadium for a three-month "muck and nettles" spell in the Football League's bottom tier with Rotherham United.

Arsene Wenger's cosmopolitan array of creme-de-la-creme burgeoning talents are more used to plying their trade in higher echelons when broadening their footballing education on loan and a trio of Randall's team-mates are currently assigned to three of the Millers' more venerated Yorkshire rivals.

Winger Sanchez Watt, defender Kyle Bartley and keeper Vito Mannone are busy with Championship business at Leeds United, Sheffield United and Hull City respectively, and another rising Gunners star – Jay Emmanuel-Thomas – became a big crowd favourite during a productive spell at

Doncaster Rovers in the second-half of last season.

Championship or continental destinations are the usual temporary stop-off points for Wenger's wanabees, with others such as Nicklas Bendtner, Henri Lansbury and Keiran Gibbs having gained experience in the second-tier previously.

But all roads led up the M1 to Rotherham for 21-year-old Randall, with boss Ronnie Moore – who has banged on about the need to bring in a composed playmaker since the start of the season – having finally got his man.

Randall is determined to pay back Moore's faith, while putting himself in the shop window with the clock ticking regarding his Gunners future, with the midfielder out of contract next summer.

Milton-Keynes born Randall, who has made 13 appearances for the Arsenal first team in a variety of competitions, said: "I've got to really push on now and, if not at Arsenal, I've got to put myself in the shop


"I have got the hope of making it at Arsenal, but if not, at another big club or good club where I can play first-team football.

"I know a lot of players would not come down to League Two for other reasons, like maybe embarrassment or something like that, no disrespect to the league.

"But I just wanted to go out and play first-team football and I had no hesitation in coming here.

"A few clubs were interested and came to watch me, but Rotherham got in touch with Arsenal and it went from there really.

"The more first-team football I can play, the better. I need as much as I can get.

"I think the football may be a bit rougher up here and physical for young Arsenal players – it's a totally different ball game really – but I'm looking forward to it.

"I hope to show the gaffer, fans and players what I can do. Hopefully, I can do a really good job, get on the ball and settle things down to help them win a lot of games.

"It's good to feel wanted by a manager. I know he likes me and has a lot of trust in me.

"I've a lot of trust in him and I think that's going to bring a lot of quality out in my game."

For a young Arsenal talent, aged just 21, Randall can call upon a fair bit of experience, albeit with the lion's share of his first-team cameos being from the bench.

Randall – who has also had loan spells at hometown club Milton Keynes and in the Championship at Burnley as a 17-year-old – made his debut as a substitute for Denilson in the Gunners' Carling Cup third-round encounter with West Brom in October 2006.

And his Champions League bow came as a replacement in the third-qualifying round clash at Dutch side FC Twente in August 2008.

That arrived a few months after making his first Premiership appearance, again as a sub, in Arsenal's 2007-08 swansong against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Rated as a player with prodigious passing skills and vision, the 6ft schemer is anxious for more responsibility to be thrust upon his shoulders in the competitive furnace of League Two.

And he concedes that his diet of reserve-team football has not been a wholly enriching or rewarding one, with the intensity not as keenly felt for a player who is no longer in the 'teen starlet' bracket.

Randall added: "I've had lot of highlights, such as playing in the Champions League, Carling Cup and Premier League. Every game you play is a massive bonus at Arsenal.

"The reserve football is really good to a certain point, but it's not really competitive enough when you are not in the team. When you are playing in a proper game where you need the three points, that's what it's all about at the end of the day.

"I think I'll probably play well over 10 games in the three months here. It will maybe be as many as I'd get in a reserve season at Arsenal.

"I'll hopefully be playing two games a week sometimes and it will be a

massive test physically and mentally."

Even the commute up the M1 from Milton Keynes didn't put Randall off – even if it does mean getting up at the crack of dawn.

He said: "It's not too bad and it's only an hour-and-a-half by car! I just wanted to come here to play some first-team football."