Etheridge on missing Suzuki Cup anew: It's frustrating

The fomer Fulham reserve was once part of the historic Azkals side six years ago but he will be watching them from West Midlands.
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Walsall star Neil Etheridge expressed his disappointment on once again having to skip the chance to play for the Azkals in the Suzuki Cup.

In a statement on Tuesday night, the top goalie of the English third tier side said, “It's frustrating that the Suzuki Cup doesn't fall within international dates, but for the past years now I guess I have been used to not being involved.”

The Suzuki Cup has been notoriously known for it being played outside the allotted international break by FIFA for November, meaning clubs are not required to release their Southeast Asian players for national team duties in the said tournament.

Walsall, currently playing in the Football League One but looking to stay away from relegation, decided to keep Etheridge, effectively making him unavailable for the Azkals lineup for two friendlies in October, which according to the PFF will likely be their Suzuki Cup roster.

[Related Story: OJ returns as Neil, PatiƱo absent from Azkals squad for October]

“It's disappointing for me on a personal level because the experiences that I gained from that cup competition when I was younger were second to none, the atmosphere, the intensity and the teams pulling together to gain victory,” continued Etheridge, who was part of the 2010 Azkals team that made a historic semifinal run in the Suzuki Cup.

What further saddened Etheridge was the fact that the Philippines will be a host of the group stage.

“The competition being played on home soil of course is even more frustrating but there's nothing I can do about the games being held outside international dates so I try not to think about the situation,” he said particularly.

About the prospective Suzuki Cup team, Etheridge described, “The team have looked strong and resilient in the past games that I have played in. I know we still have some injuries but the squad has looked compact and together with a great changing room atmosphere which plays a big part.”

On how he will follow the Azkals' journey, he answered, “I will be watching and cheering the Azkals on from England.”

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno