Neil Etheridge, Phillipino, Debuts for Fulham At Age 21
The big news for Fulham and Philippine football fans: Neil Etheridge debuts for Fulham at age 21.
Last May 31, 2011, Neil was asked in an interview if he had his eyes cast at making a mark at the UEFA Europa League. Neil answered it was totally in the hands of his manager. Well, the moment did come although the manager was the one who found out that sometimes events are out of his hands as well. While being the 3rd choice goalkeeper, Neil finally got his chance to show his goal-keeping skills as a replacement for the injured Mark Schwarzer (and an ineligible David Stockdale) in a Europa League game vs. Odense last December 14, 2011. Even if Neil conceded two goals, Goal.Com rated Neil with a “good performance overall” and a rating of 7.5 whereas the team averaged at 6.67.
According to Goal.com commentary, Neil “caused the fans one nervy moment early on…” when around the 5th-6th minute, Neil’s first and “risky” pass out to a Fulham team mate was almost snatched by an attacker. In the 38th minute, the Goal.com commentator noted how Neil made a confident claim of a dangerous ball which should boost Neil’s level of confidence. Thom Gibbs of the Telegraph described this confident claim as Etheridge having to come ….” a long, long way to collect a corner, way beyond his far post. He does so, excellently. Well done, young man.”
This level of confidence was tested again around the 50th minute when an Odense player’s low shot was tipped behind by Neil with the Goal.Com commentator noted as a “good save by the Phillipino” (Spelling of Filipino by Goal.com commentator). John Ashdown from the Guardian was more generous with his praise calling it a “superb save” as ….”Ruud beats his full-back and looks to sidefoot home an angled effort, but the young keeper gets down brilliantly to block.”
During the 2nd half, the Fulham official game commentary noted how Etheridge “did well to push wide” a shot on goal. However, in the end, Neil conceded two goals with a final score at 2-2 (Video Highlights of Game showing two goals conceded by Fulham at http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuropaleague/video/videoid=1734535.html?autoplay=true).
Laura Williamson of the Mail wrote that the Fulham-Odense match was “…a very difficult night for a goalkeeper playing his first senior game for Fulham.” Laura further added that Neil looked “devastated at the end of the whistle.” Needless to say, painful as the results might have been, Neil will count this debut as a blessing, as part of his learning experience. Perhaps some consolation; Mark Schwarzer tweeted that Neil “….had a great, great game” but “...very unlucky with the goals.” Congratulations Neil on your debut! As a Filipino, we are proud of you.
Note: Dec 16, 2011 Update> Fulham manager chooses David Stockdale to start as goalkeeper for the Dec 17, 2011 Fulham-Bolton game. Jol cited David’s experience over Neil’s potential saying that “…Neil Etheridge will be a very good goalkeeper but Stockdale has more experience” (see http://www.fulhamfc.com/Club/News/NewsArticles/2011/December/StockdaleReturns.aspx).
Goal.com Fulham-Odense report and ratings: (http://www.goal.com/en-gb/match/66169/fulham-vs-ob-odense/player-ratings).
UEFA Europa League: Photo insert courtesy of UEFA at http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuropaleague/season=2012/matches/round=2000272/match=2007405/postmatch/photos/index.html
Telegraph Play by Play Account: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/competitions/europa-league/8956913/Fulham-v-Odense-Boldklub-live.html
Guardian Play by Play Account: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/dec/14/europa-league-2011-12-fulham?newsfeed=true