MANILA, Philippines – Premier League side Fulham FC has recalled Philippine Azkals first-choice goal-keeper Neil Etheridge from the Bristol Rovers of League Two, casting doubts on his availability for the AFF Suzuki Cup.
"The Club (Fulham) can confirm that Neil Etheridge has been recalled from his loan at Bristol Rovers," Fulham announced on their website late Wednesday.
"Rovers can confirm that Neil Etheridge has been recalled by Fulham," Bristol Rovers tweeted. "We would like to wish Neil Etheridge all the best back at his parent club."
Bristol yesterday released Etheridge for two games so he can join the Azkals in the AFF Suzuki Cup, which kicks off on November 24 with the Philippines facing host Thailand.
But after being recalled by Fulham, it is unsure if Etheridge will be able to play for the Philippines.
A report from BBC said Etheridge "will now go back to the Premier League club when he returns from international duty with the Philippines," though Fulham have not confirmed that they will allow the Fil-Brit to play in the Suzuki Cup.
The Azkals are still waiting for official word from the Premier League club.
Azkals coach Michael Weiss said if Etheridge cannot make it, Eduard Sacapaño will serve as the team’s goal-keeper in the tournament.
"Sacapaño is hopefully going to play the same role... he has confidence," Weiss said of Sacapaño.
Sacapaño was sensational in the Azkals' 1-0 victory against Singapore in their last friendly before the Suzuki Cup, making several impressive saves including one of a Singapore penalty.
Meanwhile, Etheridge tweeted his gratitude to the Rovers organization.
"My time at Bristol has been nothing but first class from the players, management and backroom staff! I thank all the fans," he tweeted.
It also remains to be seen if second-choice goal-keeper Roland Mueller will be available to play for the Azkals. The Fil-German is currently with the MSV Duisburg of Bundesliga's second division.
Etheridge was instrumental in the Azkals' 2010 Suzuki Cup campaign, which saw them upset holders Vietnam in the group stage and make it all the way to the semi-finals. -- With a report from ANC.