Should Etheridge go out on loan?

By: Clara Buenconsejo - twitter: @Alquanna

Tue. Jun. 12, 2012

The transfer window has been opened in Europe, and it’s that time of the year again for clubs to buy, sell, and occasionally release players from their contracts. The Euros aside, I’d like to propose this idea in the spirit of the transfer season: Fulham FC should let Neil Etheridge out on loan to another club, even if it’s for a League One or Championship side.

Why a loan?

Simply put, a loan is necessary just so he’d get enough experience. Remember that Etheridge made his Fulham debut in that Europa League draw against Odense BK last December 2011 that saw the English club exit the tournament. While that draw wasn’t completely Etheridge’s fault, inexperience did play a part in it as this match report suggests; it is also a view echoed by some fans.

Shortly after that Europa League exit, David Stockdale - one of Fulham’s keepers - was recalled from his loan at Ipswich Town. Martin Jol, the club’s manager, was even quoted by an article on Fulham’s website as saying “Etheridge will be a very good goalkeeper, but Stockdale has more experience.” Same with Schwarzer, who tweeted that Etheridge just got “very unlucky with the goals” on his Europa League debut.

The club was dangerously hovering above the relegation zone at that time, and Jol certainly couldn’t afford to take the risk of fielding a good but inexperienced keeper. With Schwarzer eventually returning to full fitness, and Etheridge himself suffering from a wrist injury, a start at Craven Cottage wasn’t possible anymore. While Etheridge did make a return to goalkeeping duties for Fulham’s reserve team, that’s not really a substitute for regular league appearances even at the Championship level.

Good for Etheridge, good for the Azkals in the long run

I was personally reminded of that result when the Azkals drew with Indonesia last June 5. While Roland Müller in the first half seemed cool, calm and collected, Indonesia’s goals in the second half and Etheridge’s outbursts looked like the products of inexperience. This can be pinned on Müller’s age - he is 24, two years older than Etheridge; goalkeepers generally tend to get better with age, due to having amassed more experience. That, and the fact he also seems to have played more games in the past few years than Etheridge, from a quick check of their stats on Wikipedia plus Transfermarkt.co.uk.

In a way, a loan is the win-win solution for the Azkals, Fulham, and Etheridge. Sending Etheridge out on a loan will hone his skills and ultimately make him a better player, in the same way Fulham sent Stockdale out to Ipswich. It’s certainly an investment for Fulham in the future. And with better goalkeeping skills, the Azkals won’t have to content themselves with scrappy draws next time.

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