Fulham First XI

Thursday 5 September 2013 09:30

Fulham and Philippines goalkeeper Neil Etheridge talks footballing beginnings in this week’s Fulham First XI.

First professional match attended


It would have been Liverpool against Aston Villa at Anfield - probably in the 1996/97 season with my cousin and my uncle taking me. It was around my seventh birthday as well because I remember on the antenna at half-time there was a birthday message for me.

First club supported


My first kit was Tottenham Hotspur one, as I was brought up in North London. But the club that I supported was Liverpool because a lot of my family followed them as well.

First boots


It would have been an Umbro pair, not very expensive. I never really went for the most expensive ones. As a goalkeeper, my first real gloves were Sells but I had to buy them myself when I was about 15 until I got them as a sponsor. At the time, adidas were the boots to have as David Beckham was wearing them, but I never got a pair until I was about 16. I’ve been lucky to be sponsored by Nike, but I remember the first time I wanted a pair of Nike boots, there was a sale and my Dad was saying ‘you can get this pair, or two of these cheaper pairs’. I ended up with two of the cheaper pairs.

First club joined


Fulham, but I did my younger years at Chelsea and came over here when I was 15 or 16 years old. As a boy, I played for Hart Boys in the local district but started at Cuffy Chiefs up in north London. First manager There were two. Frank O’Brien when I was at Chelsea, who helped me in the Under-14s; then when I stepped up to the youth team I had Brendan Rodgers. The boys that were there at the time are mostly playing at a very high level now so it was nice to be a part of that squad and I learned a lot. Brendan was a very good coach and I’m happy to see him at Liverpool now.

First position


The first year I played in goal was 2000 as I remember playing in the Millennium Cup, but I started as a left midfielder and even played as a striker. I was just bigger than everyone else so was able to use my strength and power. Then when I was 10-years-old we had an injury to our usual goalkeeper and, as I was the tallest, I volunteered to go in goal. I played there for a bit and really enjoyed it, probably because I was good at it. So I stuck with it.

First manager


There were two. Frank O’Brien when I was at Chelsea, who helped me in the Under-14s; then when I stepped up to the youth team I had Brendan Rodgers. The boys that were there at the time are mostly playing at a very high level now so it was nice to be a part of that squad and I learned a lot. Brendan was a very good coach and I’m happy to see him at Liverpool now.

First match for Fulham


Odense. The only senior appearance that I’ve got at the moment, but it’s going to stay in my mind forever as we were in the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League. It was a 2-2 draw with a late goal from them, but I’ll always remember it. The first game that Mark Hughes took me to as third choice was at Old Trafford with Mark Schwarzer and David Stockdale.

First trophy


It was the Millennium Cup. When I was in goal for the first time we won the trophy and I was also given Goalkeeper of the Tournament as well. I guess that’s why I stuck with it. First red card The first one I can remember was when I was on loan to Leatherhead in the FA Trophy Preliminary Round in 2008. We lost to Sittingbourne 2-1 and another lad got sent off later on so we were down to nine. I was quite hot-headed when I was younger so mine was for dissent after they scored a goal that was offside, but I won’t say what I said!

First red card


The first one I can remember was when I was on loan to Leatherhead in the FA Trophy Preliminary Round in 2008. We lost to Sittingbourne 2-1 and another lad got sent off later on so we were down to nine. I was quite hot-headed when I was younger so mine was for dissent after they scored a goal that was offside, but I won’t say what I said!

First shirt number


As a kid in goal you are always handed the number one, but the first number with my name on the back was from the Philippines and that was number 38. That’s the number I’ve stuck with ever since and I will do until I deserve the number one shirt at Fulham. For me, I guess it was because I was given the number 38 and kept three cleans in my first three games is why that means something to me now.

First football hero


I never really looked up to goalkeepers when I was a kid. As a Liverpool fan it was Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen and the first name I had on the shirt was Robbie’s! The goalkeeper at the time was David James, so he was good to watch during my early years. When I was taken under Mark Schwarzer’s wing here, he was hugely important for me and, even though he’s at Chelsea now, he’s still a role model for me as a player and a person.

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