Former Walsall goalkeeper Neil Etheridge ready to live his dream
Former Walsall goalkeeper Neil Etheridge is ready to live the Premier League dream – just a few years after staying on a friend’s sofa in an attempt to rescue his career.
The now-Cardiff stopper missed only one league game as Neil Warnock’s Cardiff underdogs beat the odds to win promotion from the Championship.
Even among Warnock’s squad of misfits discarded by other clubs, Etheridge’s story stands out after he came so close to quitting English football.
“I sold my house, I sold my cars and I was about a week away from going to the Philippines,” said Etheridge, who was born in London and is set to become the first Filipino to play in the Premier League. “But I got offered a contract from Oldham to sit on the bench and I did it.
“Being a London boy, to go up to Manchester, I was never willing to travel.
“But one of my mates lived up there and I asked to kip on his sofa. That’s what you’ve got to do to get by.”
Enfield-born Etheridge’s career began in more salubrious surroundings at the Chelsea academy, where he started out as a forward before becoming a goalkeeper.
Six seasons at Fulham brought only one Europa League appearance and loan spells at Leatherhead, Bristol Rovers and Crewe, before – via Oldham and Charlton – he wound up as Walsall’s No.1 for two seasons, which earned him his free transfer to Cardiff.
“It’s been an emotional roller-coaster for me,” Etheridge said.
“I’ve got massive respect for the manager here taking me on and sticking by me.
“He’ll admit himself we don’t always play the prettiest, but we come out with results in a results-based industry.
“This year has been fantastic with the national team qualifying for the Asian Cup for the first time and now promotion to the Premier League.”