Football: Filipino goalkeeper Neil Etheridge makes switch to Birmingham City

Dubai: Philippines international goalkeeper Neil Etheridge has promised his best is yet to come after signing a four-year deal with Birmingham City.

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The well-known goalkeeper who left English Championship rivals Cardiff City signed a four-year deal with Aitor Karanka’s side for the new season.

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The 30-year-old played a key role with Cardiff in gaining promotion from the Championship to the Premier League during the 2017-18 season.

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“Etheridge will wear the No. 30 jersey for the new season,” Birmingham announced on Twitter after the Filipino signed for them on Friday.

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Etheridge became the first player from Southeast Asia to play in the top flight of English football in his second season with Cardiff, with the 30-year-old making an immediate impression with penalty saves in his first two games, against Bournemouth and Newcastle United.

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Etheridge went on to be named Cardiff’s Player of the Year despite the club’s relegation back down to the Championship. He, however, lost his place in Cardiff’s starting line-up last season and has made the move to St Andrew’s in an attempt to secure regular first-team football.

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“I’d just like to take the time to say a massive thank you to Cardiff City for everything they’ve done for me,” Etheridge wrote in a post on Instagram announcing his departure from Ninian Park.

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“The past three years we’ve had such an amazing time together, being promoted in my first season to the Premier League, and even though we were relegated we gave it a right go in the best league in the world,” he added.

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Etheridge was born in Enfield, London to Englishman Martin and Filipina Merlinda Dula. He took up football at the age of nine, initially playing as a left-sided midfielder or striker before discovering his goalkeeping talents in 2000 after volunteering to switch due to an injury to his youth side’s regular keeper.

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“I would like to thank all you guys, the supporters for everything, all the people behind the scenes that make that club run so that we as players can get out there and entertain and, of course, all the players and friends that I played with during my time with the club,” Etheridge continued.

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“We made some fantastic memories together and I’ll never forget the part the club and supporters played. I wish the club every success in the future.”

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He joined the Fulham Academy after three years as a trainee at Chelsea and made his debut for Fulham in the Uefa Europa League against Danish club Odense Boldklub, though he never played in a league match with the club. While with Fulham from 2006 until 2014 he was loaned to various lower tier clubs including Leatherhead, Charlton Athletic, Bristol Rovers and Crewe Alexandra.

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After establishing himself as first-choice goalkeeper, he helped the Welsh side win promotion to the Premier League and became the first Filipino player to play in the Premier League in August 2018. A former England Schoolboys international, Etheridge now represents the Philippines at senior international level.

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“I’m now onto a new chapter of my career and I’m absolutely delighted to sign here at Blues,” Etheridge wrote. “I can’t wait to get started and hopefully play my part in bringing success back to this fantastic club. The supporters are renowned for getting behind the lads and although it’s a shame we can’t be together in the stadium I look forward to meeting you all soon. The head coach is building something special here and I’m delighted he wants me to be part of it.”

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