The coming transfer window will be a big one for Neil Harris and Cardiff City.
It could be in the summer time, it could be in the winter, but Cardiff’s next pre-season whenever it may be, will be a huge one. It’ll be Harris’ first with Cardiff, and there’s a lot of deadwood to move on.
Deadwood may be a harsh term for some of Cardiff’s ageing and high-earning players, but football is as fickle as brutal, and expect Harris to show no remorse in showing certain players the door.
One man who’ll likely be on his way is Neil Etheridge. One of Cardiff’s saving graces in the Premier League last season, but today he plays back-up.
He was a busy man in the top-flight. He saved Cardiff on numerous occasions and kept them in with a fighting chance of Premier League survival. So heading back down into the Championship, he was expected to have an even better season with the club.
That’s not been the case though – Etheridge started the season in goal, as expected, but didn’t carry the form from his previous season into this.
It didn’t help that he was injured in the opening game against Wigan, and sidelined for a number of weeks after. During those weeks, Alex Smithies stepped in and gave a good account of himself, but he was always going to make way for Etheridge upon his return.
When the Filipino did eventually return, he didn’t look the same player – he wasn’t his usual commanding self. He was making mistakes that he didn’t make last season and given Smithies’ steadier performances in his absence, it brought that no.1 spot into contention.
Harris quickly had a decision on his hands – whether to stick with the tried and tested, well-liked Etheridge, or revert to Smithies who proved the more reliable keeper this time round.
Smithies was granted the starting spot for the FA Cup tie with Carlisle at the start of the year, and retained it for the following Welsh derby the weekend after.
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Since then, Smithies hasn’t missed a minute of league football for Cardiff, keeping four clean sheets in the process and seemingly casting doubt over Etheridge’s future with the club.
West Ham came calling for Etheridge in January amid a goalkeeping crisis of their own, but that move never materialised. The rumoured fee was said to be around £7 million, and Cardiff fans couldn’t believe their luck.
That much money for a half-decent keeper who’s since turned 30-years-old, and who hasn’t had a good season? It would’ve been the steal of the century and with that being said, expect Harris to force Etheridge out the door in the summer, if Etheridge himself doesn’t look for it.
Cardiff also have the returning Joe Day, who’s been impressing on-loan at AFC Wimbledon in the second-half of this season, and who’ll also be wanting to challenge for the no.1 spot at Cardiff next season.
Etheridge’s Cardiff future then is up in the air. Fans like him – he’s a good goalkeeper and a decent guy – but he’s not shown enough this season, and if the money’s half-right in the summer, expect him to be sold in a flash.