HISTORY! Right when Cardiff City FC posted their Starting Eleven in their Premier League opener and Neil Etheridge was there as the goalkeeper, a milestone has been achieved. The Azkals’ goalkeeper is now OFFICIALLY the FIRST Filipino, and Southeast Asian, to play in the prestigious Premier League.
Here’s the #BOUCAR team news you’ve been waiting for!
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) August 11, 2018
Despite conceding a goal in the 24th minute as Ryan Fraser converts a chance for Bournemouth, Neil Etheridge stepped up in massive fashion to deny a penalty kick by Callum Wilson in the 34th minute, which in itself is a milestone as well.
1 – Neil Etheridge is the first goalkeeper to save a penalty on his Premier League debut since Allan McGregor did so for Hull against Chelsea in August 2013. Stopped. pic.twitter.com/MBmqEBk7hN
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 11, 2018
But the highlight eventually ended in dampened fashion just like the damp afternoon weather in Vitality Stadium as Callum Wilson scored the decider in added time to hand the visiting Bluebirds a 2-0 defeat, despite a few gilt-edged chances for the Welsh club to equalise especially in the second half.
In conclusion, it seems like a harsh and foreboding welcome to the Premiership for Neil Etheridge and the rest of Cardiff City, but the season is still long and adjustments can still be made especially that their next fixture on August 18 will be in front of their own fans.
Behind the milestone
Although all the focus now is on the momentous occasion of the Filipino shot-stopper playing in one of the world’s highest levels of competition in club football, it is to note that Neil’s journey to where he is at now has not been an easy one.
Initially already on a promising trajectory for a career towards the Premier League with Fulham, a disastrous debut in a Europa League clash against Odense BK in December of 2011 put a halt to his rise in the club’s goalkeeping ranks in which a couple of loan spells followed.
Eventually, he was released by Fulham, then been unattached for a while before fighting to revive his career in sort of a journeyman fashion until thriving with League One club Walsall and then finding a career-renaissance with Welsh club Cardiff City in which Neil was able to help the club gain promotion to the Premiership as its main goalkeeper for most of the 2017/18 campaign.
1⃣9⃣ clean sheets 👏👏👏@Neil38Etheridge: “The best thing in the world!”
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) May 6, 2018
In spite of all the challenges experienced in club football, Etheridge has been a faithful servant for the Philippine National Football Team, more known as The Azkals, when it came to international campaigns.
An emotional Neil Etheridge talks about the ‘baby steps’ the team has taken in his decade-long journey with the Azkals. pic.twitter.com/k5dT9RWlYO
— ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) March 27, 2018
His loyalty and remaining true to the course with The Azkals has been rewarded with a qualification (for the first time in its history) a spot in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
And now that he was able to achieve multiple career-milestones both for the national team and his club, and is definitely on a high from an individual standpoint, the real challenge begins for Cardiff City, as Premier League ‘experts’ are tipping the club this early to be in for a relegation battle. The just concluded slim defeat against Bournemouth is a possible testament to the hard road ahead.
Struggles to be won lie ahead
These challenges though are things that Neil Etheridge will surely relish now to face head-on, with him moulded already with the circumstances that he was able to overcome. These hiccups are definitely something that he can handle as he continues to battle on for his squad in their aim to ensure their survival in one of the most competitive and ruthless leagues in the world.
Premier League ready. 💪 pic.twitter.com/0rhP5rz7DK
— Pro:Direct Keepers (@ProD_Keepers) August 8, 2018
Neil Etheridge already achieved something that won’t be taken away from him as the FIRST EVER Filipino who stepped into the Premier League as a starter, now it’s time to lend his iron helping hands to keep the challenges thrown at his club at bay.
Burridge: Azkals’ Neil Etheridge is made for Premier League football