Neil Etheridge rests up ahead of Azkals duty
MANILA, Philippines—Filipino goalkeeper Neil Etheridge will miss Birmingham City’s next game as he prepares to join the Azkals for the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers this coming June.
As per Birmingham Mail, team manager Lee Bowyer said Etheridge won’t suit up against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday as he gets extra time to recover from a stomach problem before his international duty with the Azkals, who will begin camp soon.
“Neil will be traveling but he won’t be involved,” said Bowyer. “There’s a bit of a stomach problem he has had for a while and obviously he is going to be away international duty all summer so he is not going to have any rest.”
“So I think now it’s ‘OK. Let’s come off him a bit now from kicking, kicking, kicking putting pressure on the stomach. There is no point taking any risks,” he added in the interview.
Bowyer also suggested that he could be giving Etheridge extra time to recover after his Azkals’ stint before rejoining Birmingham.
“I will give him an extra week or so after we start because he won’t have had a break or like a week’s break.”
Birmingham sits at 18th in the second-tier English Football League Championship table with a 13-13-19 win-draw-loss record and has won three of their last five matches.
As the team’s starting keeper, Etheridge has compiled 13 clean sheets and is tied at eighth in the league for most with Watford’s Daniel Bachmann and Middlesbrough’s Marcus Bettinelli.
The 6-foot-3 keeper has already signified his commitment to the Azkals for the World Cup qualifiers in China.
The Azkals are set to play against Guam on June 3, China on June 9, and the Maldives on June 15. They hold their training camp in Qatar from May 18 to 31.
“It’s not quite the same as an outfield player but everyone needs a break mentally, to be around the family, see people,” said Bowyer. “I think it’s going to be difficult for everyone to go away in the summer unless that changes but he will need to take a step away from football for a short period at least.”
This is Etheridge’s first season with Birmingham after having played previously with Bristol Rovers, Crewe Alexandra, Charlton Athletic, Walsall, and Cardiff City, where he spent three years with including the 2018-19 season when they were promoted to the Premier League.
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