There is little doubt that Neil Etheridge is the best goalkeeper the Philippine national football team currently has. Along with brothers Phil and James Younghusband, Etheridge has been one of the poster boys of the Azkals, attracting many fans due to his combination of exceptional goalkeeping skills and good looks.
But the situation is different for him at his team Fulham FC, an English Premier League club based in London. There, he plays as a third choice goalkeeper behind Australian football star Mark Schwarzer and David Stockdale.
Despite not suiting up for the club often, Etheridge remains positive about his role as Fulham’s reserve goalkeeper.
“When you’ve got ‘keepers of their caliber ahead of you, it’s hard to get the opportunity (to play),” Etheridge told Fulham’s official website fulhamfc.com in a recent interview.
“Not that you need extra motivation, but it does make you work that little bit harder because you’ve got great goalkeepers in front of you.”
The 22-year-old Etheridge, whose mother, Melissa, hails from Tarlac, has been with Fulham since he was 15. However, he has not received much playing time with the club, only appearing once when he suited up as a starter in their UEFA Europa League group match against Odense BK in the 2011-2012 season.
But Fulham saw his potential and, last year, signed Etheridge to a contract that would keep him with the club until 2013. He is also regarded as an understudy of Stockdale, the team’s second choice goalkeeper.
With the new Premier League season starting in August, Etheridge’s reserve role might not change soon. Instead of being upset, the Filipino goalkeeper seems to be taking it in stride.
“It is really hard – not just for goalkeepers – to set goals, especially in my case with two good ‘keepers in front of me,” Etheridge said. “I’ll just have to keep my head down and keep working and I’ll take the opportunities that come to me.”