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Neil Etheridge eyes Premier League return, commits to future with Azkals

Philippine international goalkeeper Neil Etheridge believes he proved he belongs in the English Premier League following a successful debut season.

Etheridge made the most of his first stint in the Premier League, accumulating three penalty saves, 10 cleans sheets, and 141 saves for Cardiff City FC. The 141 Etheridge saves ranks second in the entire Premier League, trailing only West Ham's Lukasz Fabianski's tally.

"I exceeded all expectations that I had for myself, and probably exceeded everyone's expectations," Etheridge told Philippine media upon his return to the country.

After a notable maiden season, the 29-year-old keeper believes that he has shown enough to say that he has the quality to make it in the Premier League. Despite Etheridge's achievements, Cardiff City were not able to retain a place in the top flight. The Welsh club fell two points short of preserving their spot in the Premier League, meaning that they are relegated to the Championship, England's second-tier competition, for next season.

But Etheridge is proud of the way Cardiff battled throughout the year.

"A lot of people, media expected us to go down within the first couple of months basically, and we took it all the way to the penultimate game," Etheridge said. "Even though we got relegated, we obviously put up a really strong fight."

Etheridge will move down the ladder with the Welsh club, unless a Premier League club strikes a deal with Cardiff to acquire him. Etheridge is contracted to two more years with Cardiff.

"I have enjoyed every moment at Cardiff, and it was a massive disappointment that as a club, as a team we got relegated," Etheridge said. "But obviously, to have the opportunity to go back and play in the Premier League is something that obviously I would have to consider. The club have a decision to make, because I got two years left on my current contract. Those are the things I don't turn down, you don't turn down playing in the Premier League."

While Etheridge hopes for a quick return to the Premier League, he is also committing to a future with the Philippine Azkals. The prized shot stopper missed action for the national team in the AFC Asian Cup, where the Philippines turned heads.

Etheridge says that he would like to be part of the team that will compete in the World Cup Qualifiers this September.

"Of course I want to be part of the Azkals going into the World Cup qualifiers," Etheridge said. "I want to be a part of it, I want to move it forward, I'd love to have the responsibility, not just from the Premier League or wherever I am playing in England or Europe. I want to have a responsibility here."

Etheridge will not be part of the Philippine team that will take on China in an international friendly on June 6 to focus on recovery from the English domestic season. Despite not being able to join the squad for their next fixture, the 29-year old says he is in on helping the national team in the long haul.