After helping the Philippine Azkals make history by booking its first appearance in the AFC Asian Cup, goalkeeper Neil Etheridge now focuses his energy on his career with Cardiff City FC.
Etheridge has been playing a pivotal role in the Bluebirds’ goal of an English Premier League promotion this season. An elevation will make him the first Southeast Asian to play in the world’s richest and most popular league.
Cardiff is currently No. 2 in the second-tier English Championship with a 23-7-7 win-draw-loss record for 76 points, seven markers clear of its closest contender. The top two finishers will be automatically promoted to the English top flight.
Etheridge, the No. 1 Filipino shotstopper for the past 10 years is not rushing things up.
“I’m taking it game by game, step by step. Just extremely blessed to be where I am,” said Etheridge, who turned emotional when asked about his Premier League quest.
“I just have to go back to Cardiff now. We got nine games left. It’s a massive opportunity to get promoted.”
Etheridge previously went through a rough journey in England. The 6-foot-2 booter was with Fulham FC from 2008 to 2014, the time when the club was still in the Premier League. However, he was never inserted into the lineup and only played in a 2-2 draw with Danish squad Odense in the UEFA Europa League.
Following his release from Fulham in 2014, Etheridge suited up for several lower-tier clubs until his brilliant showing with Walsall FC caught the attention of Cardiff manager Neil Warnock, who signed the London-born goal keeper in May last year. His prowess was evident playing for the Welsh side, tallying 16 clean sheets so far this season.
Asked if he saw himself where he is now from a year ago, the 28-year old gloveman replied, “I don’t think so.”
“I have a lot of doubters, a lot of people think who didn’t think I’ll do it. I’ve always been slightly successful at international level and I’ve proven again today,” he added.
Etheridge is hoping that his club level bumpy ride will have a triumphant culmination.
“Going back to playing in the UK, I’ve had a lot of hard journey to get where I am today and I just hope the season ends well.”
“I hope this would be the year I won’t forget,” he ended.