Neil Etheridge: ‘I was offered £200 a week. I could have earned more by working at a supermarket’

Neil Etheridge: ‘I was offered £200 a week. I could have earned more by working at a supermarket’

How the Cardiff shot stopper’s career almost came to an end after Fulham

Neil Etheridge made history this season when he became the first Filipino to ever play in the Premier League. The Cardiff City goalkeeper, who has featured in all 15 of the Bluebirds league matches this term, has made headlines over the past year following a string of impressive performances for the Welsh outfit.

Etheridge’s career within the English game was almost brought to an end four years ago however, when he was released by Fulham after the Cottagers were relegated to the Championship. Having joined Chelsea’s academy back in 2003, Etheridge made the switch to Fulham in 2006, but left West London having made just one senior appearance for the club in the 2011/12 Europa League.

“The team had just got relegated to the Championship and it had been a really tough season for me being injured for the majority of it,” Etheridge told Planet Football.

“But when I got released it was a shock to be honest. The new manager wanted to change things so I found myself not really knowing what to do. I was forced out of my comfort zone.”

Upon his release from Fulham, Etheridge had a number of offers from clubs in League One, but turned them all down.

“I had the opportunity to take a starting spot at these clubs, but I had bought a house a year ago and I was looking for the kind of money to basically keep everything exactly the same as it was so I held on and turned down some good opportunities.”

In the end, the then-24-year-old had to face the reality that he wasn’t going to find a club that would pay him the same amount of money as Fulham. Eventually, he sold his car and house to make sure he had enough money to live off whilst searching for a new club.

“As time went on I started to see the reality of football I guess in the sense that it wasn’t going to be an easy ride.

“However, when I accepted reality and when I was in a position to accept contracts, contracts weren’t coming my way.

“As the season started teams were saying, ‘we don’t have space in our squads’, ‘we don’t have finances to pay you’, ‘you haven’t got enough experience’, or ‘we cannot ask the chief executive to take a risk on someone like you’.

Neil Etheridge

The Filipino international had to sell his house and car when he was released by Fulham.

“It was all about the timing and the bad decisions I made. I put myself in a situation where around the end of September I called everyone I knew from goalkeeping coaches, agents, people in the industry offering to play for free.

“I was saying, ‘I’ve sold my house, I’ve got money in the bank, let me just have a way in,’ but even then clubs were telling me they cannot sign me.

“I was ready to say goodbye to English football. I just didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, even though I had confidence I could play at league level.”

Etheridge was ready to pack it all in and return to the Philippines, when out of the blue he received an offer from an unknown agent offering him a contract at Oldham, who at the time were competing in the third tier.

“I wasn’t assigned to him or anything like that, he obviously knew of me and he just said, ‘do you want to go to Oldham? They need a goalkeeper, they are not offering much money but obviously you’re in a situation where you need a club.’

“I was offered £200 a week. I could have earned more by working at a supermarket, but I saw an opportunity where I can go there and show what I could do.”

Things didn’t work out for Etheridge at Boundary Park however. He made just one appearance for the Latics in the EFL Trophy, missing a penalty in the shootout against Preston which saw the Manchester side bow out of the competition.

Oldham brought in a new goalkeeper on loan the very next day, which would see Etheridge drop to number three in the pecking order. Thankfully though, his good friend Ben Roberts – who at the time was Charlton Athletic’s goalkeeping coach – persuaded then-manager Bob Peeters to sign his friend after the club’s first choice goalkeeper Stephen Henderson got injured.

Etheridge signed for Charlton until the end of the 2014/15 season, before moving to the West Midlands and signing for fellow League One side Walsall ahead of the 2015/16 campaign.

“I was in the Philippines and I got a message from Neil Cutler [Walsall’s goalkeeping coach]”

“In the text he was asking me if I’d like to join Walsall to play and be the number one goalkeeper. He said he’d seen international footage of me and despite the fact I didn’t play a lot of games, he believed I had a lot of talent.”

In his first season at the Bescot Stadium, Etheridge guided the Saddlers to the play-offs and went onto establish himself as a consistent performer in League One, making 93 appearances for the club across two years. The 28-year-old’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed either, as he earned himself a move to Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City in the summer of 2017.

Last term, the Filipino international was influential in the Bluebirds promotion to the Premier League, keeping 19 clean sheets as the Welsh side finished runners-up in the Championship. This season, he’s caught the eye on more than one occasion, notably saving a penalty against Newcastle back in August to earn his side a valuable point on home soil.

Video courtesy of Cardiff City FC

Quotes courtesy of Planet Football.