On the 24th October 2006 a skinny midfielder entered the fray for Denilson in the League Cup match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion. Aged just 17 this lad was creative midfielder Mark Randall and he had deserved his chance.
He had impressed in the reserves and had therefore been given the call-up to the first -team and this was no flash in the pan.
A stylish, composed midfield player with an eye for that incisive pass Arsene Wenger was always said to be a big fan of the Milton Keynes lad throughout his time at Arsenal.
In the end he was given the chance to impress on loan as the likes of Alex Song, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey kept him out of the first-team.
His time at Burnley was impressive but at hometown club MK Dons he was far less effective.
He had also struggled with the odd niggling injury here and there and was given one last chance to resurrect his Gunners career with a loan-spell at Rotherham United.
And I truly believe Ronnie Moore, then Millers manager, created a prophecy when discussing the move:
“He is a fantastic player. I imagine he will be ear-marked on Saturday for someone to go straight through him as a `welcome to Division Two’. It will be a shock for him to come from the Champions League at Arsenal to Rotherham in League Two.”
Eventually he left The Gunners and signed for Chesterfield; who had recently been promoted to League One.
However he struggled with persistent wrist and shoulder problems as the physicality of the league was not conducive to his sumptuous style of play.
And after last season in League Two it seems that Spireites boss Paul Cook agrees; that he is simply not built for lower league football:
"We're still looking for a central midfielder, but it will be a strong, aggressive, holding type of midfielder. We thank Mark for everything he's done and wish him every success for the future."
So after two years and one Football League Trophy triumph Randall’s time at the Proact Stadium has come to an end; cut out of League Two plans by a manager seeking a different route to success.
But this will surely not be the end for Randall.
He is still only 23-years-old and has all the natural ability to make it as high as the Championship. He strikes me as a player who might do well to go and play abroad; where his technical ability may be respected more than in the lower echelons of English football.
But regardless of his next move I refuse to believe we have heard the last of Mark Randall; even if his days of playing in the Champions League are over.
image: © wonker