Neil Etheridge is aiming to become a history-maker twice over in his first season in the Premier League.
The Cardiff City goalkeeper has already entered a new chapter in the League’s life story by becoming the first Filipino to play in the competition.
But now the player who is a national hero back in the Philippines is in sight of bagging another landmark, even though he is half-way there after only two games this season and it’s a record he says he could well do without – for a few weeks, anyway.
With two penalty saves in his opening two matches between the sticks for newly promoted Bluebirds the 23-year-old is well on course to better the Premier League record number of penalties saved in a season – currently shared by Ali Al Habsi and Brad Friedel.
“I don’t want it to become a regular occurrence because it is two in two games now,” said Etheridge, whose side head to Huddersfield this weekend.
“Players at this level can put the ball wherever they want, although it’s not easy to step up in the 90th minute and take a penalty. At the end of the day I came out victorious.”
His first save came at Bournemouth, when he saved from Callum Wilson, while last weekend he thwarted Brazilian star Kenedy in the 96th minute to earn his side their first point with a 0-0 draw against Newcastle United.
“We deserved the point and I think we could have won it. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but I was happy to keep a first clean sheet of the season at home and get points on the board.”
Etheridge is only the second goalkeeper to save a penalty in both of his first two Premier League appearances, marching Tottenham’s Norweigian international Erik Thorstvedt 16 years ago. It also means he has saved more penalties in two matches than Arsenal’s Petr Czech has in the last five years.
His rise to the Premier League really is a rags to riches story. Part of the Chelsea Academy in his younger days, the 28-year-old Etheridge bounced around the lower leagues for many years trying to make a living on loan.
An England Under 16 cap, he slept on a friend’s couch while paying his own way to train at Oldham, sold his house and was about to move to the Philippines when Neil Warnock took him on a free transfer from League One Walsall.
He repaid him with 19 clean sheets in 45 Championship matches as Cardiff finished second behind Wolves to gain automatic promotion.
Now he has his first clean sheet in the Premier League and is hot on the heels of American keeper Friedel’s record of four penalty saves for Blackburn Rovers in the 2006/07 season. Then Omani international Al Habsi joined him on four when he was at Wigan Athletic in 2011/12.