Goalkeeper set to face his former club for the first time...FORMER Chelsea youth player Neil Etheridge says Walsall are “ready” to go toe-to-toe with the Premier League champions in the Capital One Cup this evening.
The Saddlers are in the third round for the first time in 13 years after knocking out Championship sides Brighton and Nottingham Forest.
Etheridge played in each of those matches and is yet to taste defeat in Walsall colours since arriving from Charlton Athletic in the summer.
The 25-year-old goalkeeper has been in fine form this term, keeping three clean sheets, and has also helped us climb up to second in League One.
And the Phillippines international admits our impressive start has given the squad “an abundance of confidence” ahead of the visit of Jose Mourinho’s men - the current League Cup holders.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Etheridge.
“After our start to the season, we’re ready.
“They’ve got a lot of talent, a fantastic manager but they won’t want to come to Walsall on a Wednesday night.
“We’re going into every game with an abundance of confidence. That’s probably not the case for them at the moment.
“It’s a cup game and there’s a lot of pressure on Chelsea’s shoulders. But big players know how to deal with pressure; that’s why they’re in the top league in the world.
“It will be hard for us but we’ll have a game plan and try to crack them.”
Etheridge spent four years on the youth team at Stamford Bridge between 2002 and 2006, before moving to Fulham, aged 16.
And the 6’3” stopper, who would help out as a ball boy at Chelsea’s first-team fixtures, has no regrets about leaving.
“I don’t regret any decision I have made in my football career,” said Etheridge.
“I’m very happy with how my career has panned out.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with Neil Bath, the academy director there. He was quite simple, saying that I could have my scholarship at Chelsea but he didn’t know how many games I would play.
“He was brutally honest and for me that was fantastic. I wanted to play football so I moved on and I’m glad I did.
“My full focus is on where I am now.”
And Etheridge, who has played 45 times for his country, is loving life at the Banks’s.
“I’m with a fantastic team now, we're second in the league and I do believe that this team will push for promotion,” he said.
“I feel very blessed, not just being able to play every week, but to be at a club with a fantastic manager, a fantastic backroom staff and fantastic players.”