NEIL Etheridge is forced to put club over country once again and will be out of the Azkals squad for the third straight time in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.
With his professional club Walsall FC at the bottom half of the standings in the third-tier English league, the Filipino-British goalkeeper is setting aside his desire to help the Azkals when they host the Southeast Asia’s top tournament for the first time.
“The (League One) season started with a great win followed by a few results that didn't go our way but I could see potential,” Etheridge said.
“The team is completely new from last year, very young and some with minimal experience. As the season goes on, I'm sure we will jell even more on the field, as behind the scenes the team has a great work ethic and atmosphere.”
Without the first-choice Azkals keeper, the national team will turn to Roland Muller, Patrick Deyto and Michael O’Donnell.
“On a personal level, I have been playing well and I know I need to keep it up throughout the season to play my part in this team,” the 26-year-old netminder added.
The Suzuki Cup also doesn’t fall on Fifa international competition dates, which won’t compel Walsall to release Etheridge.
“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,” admitted Etheridge, who suited up for the Philippines in 2010 edition where the Azkals’ impressive performance put them in the region’s football map.
“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,” said Etheridge, who last played for the Azkals in their 2-1 win over Kyrgyzstan in their friendly earlier this month.