MANILA, Philippines – Neil Etheridge fulfilled his dream of making it to the English Premier League, but he is now hungrier to crash back into those ranks.
Although that can be achieved through another promotion or Cardiff City FC's transfer decision as Etheridge has two more years left in his contract, the Azkals goalkeeper believes that he deserves to be in one of the world's biggest football leagues.
"I want to go back to play in the Premier League. I feel it’s where I belong," said Etheridge, who addressed Philippine media on Thursday, May 23.
The first Southeast Asian to see action in England's top tier football league emerged as the Cardiff City Player of the Year, putting him under the spotlight for other teams to get a hold of him.
The 29-year-old keeper admitted, though, that it won't be easy to leave Cardiff even if he gets a chance to do so.
"To have the opportunity to go back in the Premier League is something I’ll have to consider extremely. I’ll think about it, but ultimately, it’s not my decision," said Etheridge, who recorded 10 clean sheets in 38 appearances in the 2018-2019 Premier League season.
The Filipino keeper helped the Bluebirds gain a promotion to the Premier League last year with 19 clean sheets. However, the club's performance took a turn midway through the season and was relegated back to Championship.
"Obviously, [Cardiff] has given me the platform to go and play in the Championship and the Premier League. Even the massive disappointment with the club that we got relegated."
Etheridge also knows that there is the risk of getting fewer minutes on the pitch if he were transferred to another Premier League club as compared to a weekly appearance in the lower tier league.
But the Azkal's past experience of playing for Fulham – where he made no appearances – taught him what was worth the risk in this competitive stage of football. (READ: An underdog all his life, Neil Etheridge proves worth among elite)
"You’re one step away, you’re one injury away, a couple of training sessions away from getting that No. 1 shirt, so there are how many ways you must look at it. You sit on the bench in the Premier League for one week, you could be playing for the rest of the season if the No. 1 at that time had a bad game," said Etheridge. – Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.