Neil Etheridge opens up about move to Thai club Buriram United – Football News

Neil Etheridge opens up about move to Thai club Buriram United

Neil Etheridge is coming to Thailand.

Thai League 1 champions Buriram United announced on Sunday that they have signed the Philippines’ international goalkeeper Neil Etheridge on a two-year deal.

Already boasting one of the strongest lineups in the said league, the Thai football giants have secured the services of the former Cardiff and Birmingham City goalkeeper as they look to be favorites again and defend their title when the league starts in August.

Previously, Etheridge has always stated his desire to play in Asia and he now has the chance to do so at Buriram.

“I always said I wanted to come to Asia at some point in my career to experience something different, something new. A new career path, a new challenge/lifestyle,” Etheridge told GMA News Online.

“It’s a real commitment. For me, I always said that I wanted to play here in Asia at some point in my career and I feel like right now is the right time.”

But what were his motivations for signing with the Thai football giants?

“For me, it was of course a well-thought through decision,” Etheridge said.

“I personally believe that the Thai league is currently the most competitive league in Southeast Asia.”

Etheridge said there were other offers from the EFL Championship and other big clubs in Asia, but the challenge of playing at Buriram United was something the Filipino international could not turn down.

“Coming to Buriram – they won the league last year, so the expectation is to win it again and after speaking to the president [of the club], he’s a serial winner.”

“He wants to win everything, and that’s what I want to do too. Winning a league over a 30-game period is not a given, it’s a tough task. But not just that, he wants to win all the competitions,” he added.

“The president’s aspirations and winning mentality fell in line with what I want to do at this stage of my career and I want to start winning trophies and be a part of his team and that was a large part of why I wanted to come here.”

But make no mistake, Etheridge acknowledges the challenges that lie ahead.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I want, a challenge that I am looking forward to. It’s going to be a challenge on the field as well as off the field,” said the goalkeeper.

“It’s always been difficult for any player coming from Europe to adjust to. People talk about the time zones, but it’s not just about that. It’s the conditions, it’s the weather. It’s more humid, it’s stickier, you sweat more.”

“It’s a new challenge for me on many different levels, coming over now to Southeast Asia,” he added.

Moving halfway across the world to Thailand, he also acknowledged the support from his family, something which he said would make ‘a big, big difference to a player on the field.’

“I’m very fortunate that my wife Alex has been open to moving to Asia and Southeast Asia for a while now. She was ready for this challenge and credit to her, she really wanted to experience this and she was ready to go,” Etheridge said.

“That helps massively. When you’ve got a partner who’s there by your side who wants to experience these new challenges with you.”

With the move, Etheridge has nothing but gratitude for Birmingham City, his club for the last four years.

“I’m very thankful to the club for giving me the contract. I came across a lot of challenges in those four years, both on the field and off,” said the first Southeast Asian player to ever play in the English Premier League.

“There were some great people there at the club, there were some great teammates and now friends, and staff members that helped me along the way.”

“It wasn’t plain sailing by any stretch of the imagination. I did find it tough at times, but it’s a learning experience for me. I’m thankful but at times it was a challenge,” he said. “There were some great times and there were tough times.”

As Etheridge moves to Southeast Asia, how will the move benefit the Philippine national team?

“Personally, I think it can only benefit the team and myself,” he said. “It’s been a while now since I played week in and week out. At Birmingham, I never got that opportunity in the last two years.”

“For me now to be hopefully getting some consistent games and be closer to the Philippines. Not having to adjust to the time difference and the climate as much, it’s all beneficial to me and obviously bringing that winning mentality more so, standards will always be high for me,” he added.

“It’s going to be a positive thing for both the national team and I, being this close to home.”

At Buriram, Etheridge will be reunited with fellow national team player Jefferson Tabinas and reacquainted with Thailand internationals Narubadin Weerawatnodom and Theerathon Bumnathan, where he will look to achieve even more success.

“All I can do is to get my head down and work hard to prove myself to the president and to the coach, that they’ve brought me in for a reason, and let my football do the talking,” said Etheridge.

“I’m just looking forward to this adventure with my eyes open and I want to integrate and win trophies.”

“It’s a journey for me and my family to go on now for the next couple of years, I want to make a home and be at this club and have success at this club.”

—JKC, GMA Integrated News

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