AFTER leaving Fulham FC a few years ago, Neil Etheridge joined a couple of clubs before finding his mark with Cardiff City and becoming an integral part of the team that won a promotion to the Premier League.
Of course, thousands of his fans followed his progress by following the Twitter accounts of those teams. I remember one official account of a club tweeting after Etheridge’s departure, “I guess, we are going to lose half of our followers now.” It was sort of true as Etheridge had almost 10 times the number of followers on Twitter as the club.
Now, Etheridge has left Cardiff, almost a year after losing his starting spot and has signed with Birmingham, and based on the retweets I’ve seen on Twitter, a lot of Pinoy fans have started following the team’s official account and I’m sure the social media handler of the club has noticed the jump.
Of course there are other bigger stars in the big leagues who have Filipino lineages but I think Pinoy football fans aren’t as invested in them as in Neil Etheridge. We first heard of the guy when he was 18 and he first played for the Philippines during the Challenge Cup qualifiers in Iloilo City back in 2008.
I remember talking with Jack Biantan, who covered that tournament, and when I asked him about Etheridge, he simply said, “Kuyawa bata-a.”
Two years later, most of the Filipino fans finally learned how good Neil was during that memorable semifinal run in the 2010 Suzuki Cup.
Since 2008, Etheridge has been wearing the No. 1 shirt of the Azkals and haven’t let go. Sure there were times when he couldn’t play but there has never been any doubt who the top keeper of the team is.
That’s why, I think, most of the fans want to be updated with development in his club career, which ironically took a hit some five or six years ago just as the Azkals popularity was soaring. Just days before Cardiff’s first game in the Premier League, we all learned how Etheridge was just weeks away from deciding to try his luck in the then growing local domestic scene before he got called for a tryout that changed his career in England for good.
A couple of years after that, Pinoy fans followed Cardiff’s successful promotion from the Championship to the Premier League.
And now, with a new club in Birmingham, I think it’s safe to say that Pinoy fans are again hoping to see a similar campaign and see Etheridge back in the EPL.