Eardley back in business

Reporter: Tony Bugby
Date published: 21 April 2009

NEAL EARDLEY'S eye-catching performances have been in sharp contrast to Athletic’s deeply-disappointing finish to their Coca-Cola League one campaign.

Manager Joe Royle has praised the 20-year-old Welsh international, while Eardley himself believes he has been back to his best in recent matches.

He said: "From a personal point of view I think I have been playing well, although I would have been happier if we were winning because it is about getting three points.

"Since I won back my place earlier this month I think I have been playing consistently which has been pleasing, and it has been nice to receive praise."

It has been a frustrating campaign for Eardley, who has lost his first-team place several times, including after missing matches through international call-ups.

"It was a bit up and down when John Sheridan was here,” he said.

“Sometimes I was in and out of the team and on occasions I felt harshly done by.

"I wasn't happy to be out of the team. All any footballer wants to do is to play.

"All you can do in those circumstances is to get your head down, work hard in training and keep a good attitude.

"And when I got back into the side, I like to think I did well."

Eardley was sorry to see Sheridan leave. Although Ronnie Moore gave him his Athletic debut, it was Sheridan who gave him a regular place in the first team.

Eardley admits he is still on a steep learning curve and has plenty of scope to improve his game.

"As a full-back I love to get forward which I have always believed is one of the strengths of my game.

“But I have always known I can improve the defensive side, which still needs brushing up,” he admitted.

Llandudno-born Eardley was delighted to get on the scoresheet at Carlisle - his first goal of the season on his 34th appearance.

His strike came soon after he opened his scoring account for Wales in a 5-1 victory for the under-21s against Luxembourg.

"Scoring two goals in the space of a fortnight for club and country was nice,” he said.

"I was absolutely delighted to score my first goal for Wales, even though it was from the penalty spot.

"It was our first goal against Luxembourg and we went on to record an impressive victory.

"I was happy to get off the mark for Latics at Carlisle and to score with a free-kick from that distance was a bonus.

"I knew I had struck the ball well and it was a case of hoping it would go in.”