Veteran Philippine Azkals’ goalkeeper Neil Etheridge helped his club, Cardiff City FC to earn a promotion last May 9, 2018.
Etheridge is the main goalkeeper for the Bluebirds when they held Reading FC Cottagers in a scoreless draw resulting into a promotion from League One or English Football League. It is the second tier league of the Premier League to the Premier Football League – the top football league in the United Kingdom.
“That’s all we can do. It’s not rocket science when you take the top six out of it in the Premier League. We’ll be odds-on favorites to get relegated. But we were 33-1 this year to get in the playoffs, let alone win promotion. So we’re going to enjoy it. At my age you can’t help but do that,” said Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock, who is already 70 years old via the English newspaper, The Guardian.
“Oh no, not at all. I think I’ve got to stay here for the club. I saw a story this morning that Vincent (Tan-, Cardiff City owner) might be selling. You just don’t know,” said Warnock which also had stops as manager in different English Football League clubs. He also served as manager to Premier League team Crystal Palace from 2007-2010.
“But as quickly as the club has developed, it could go the other way, make no mistake. And I’m not going to let it go the other way after what I’ve done. So whatever happens, I’m determined to see it through.”
Aside from Cardiff City, which finished second with 90 points, the champion of English Football League Wolverhampton Wanderers will also join Cardiff City in the Premier League.
For Etheridge, which played for 45 games for Cardiff City this season, had 19 clean sheets and concede only 37 goals, he almost quit playing in England and sold his things back in 2014 to return to the Philippines.
“I sold my house and I sold my cars and I was about a week away from going back to the Philippines,” Etheridge quoted in another article by The Guardian.
Etheridge’s problem started when his long-time club Fulham released him after playing and loaned to other teams for six years but luckily Oldham Athletic – a fourth tier team signed him into a two-month contract in October 2014, then loaned to Charlton Athletic of the EFL, a month later.
The comeback of Etheridge continues after he signed with Walsall in July 2015 and suited up for 94 matches. The Fil-British transferred to Cardiff in May 2017. Luckily for him, the Bluebirds are looking for a goalkeeper after the main goalkeeper Lee Camp suffered an injury.
“The manager brought in players that were hungry and had a point to prove,” Etheridge added in The Guardian interview. “And they are players who believe in his philosophy, which is a winning way. I think he’ll admit himself that we don’t always play the prettiest but we come out with results.”
Furthermore, in a separate interview by Rappler, Etheridge reveals the simple goal of Cardiff City FC.
“Our goal was to have 15 clean sheets this season and that will get us into the playoffs,” revealed Etheridge.
The long-time Philippine Azkals goalkeeper also shared his thoughts about helping Cardiff City for Premier League promotion.
“The whole game was completely emotional, to be honest, it’s tough when you don’t know whether you’ll win halfway through the game, it’s sort of like losing. Obviously, we still wanted to go win the game,” said Etheridge.
“But when the game ended, it was a mix of emotions of plain happiness and relief, enjoyment and success, really. A mixed bag of emotions, something that normally people don’t get to experience, which is a great thing.”
Etheridge, 28 years old is making history as he becomes the first Southeast Asian to play in the Premier League and now, he is looking forward playing for Premier League and inspired other Southeast Asian especially his Azkals teammates to follow suit.
“[Being the first Southeast Asian to qualify for the Premier League] is a great achievement and it’s something that I’m really proud about. It’s very interesting to see what happens next year and hopefully I can promote this in the Philippines and to the players of Southeast Asia,” Etheridge echoed.
“The Premier League as you know is the toughest league in the world, so it won’t be easy. Obviously, our main target next year is staying in the Premier League,” Etheridge furthered explain as Cardiff City will battle established teams like Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and more.
The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) congratulated Etheridge on his history-making achievement. Back in March, the Fil-British goalkeeper helped the Azkals to achieve their first AFC Asian Cup appearance.
“We congratulate Neil Etheridge for a successful season with his club, Cardiff City FC,” said PFF president Mariano ‘’Nonong’’ Araneta Jr via PFF website. “He has been an integral part of Cardiff City’s success this season. We anticipate for the day he becomes the very first Filipino player to play in the English Premier League next season.”