Premier League Career: Tottenham Hotspur (2000-2003), West Ham United (2005-2008), Stoke City (2009-2014)
Matthew Etherington has moved into coaching since ending his professional career as a footballer in 2014. He began his playing days at Peterborough United and he is back at Posh now, managing the Under-18 side.
Etherington spent the bulk of his career in the capital, featuring in the first-teams of both Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. He moved to Stoke City in 2009, making 152 Premier League appearances for the Potters and being part of the team that reached the FA Cup final in 2011.
Spotted by Barry Fry whilst playing for Falmouth Town’s Under-14 side, Etherington left Cornwall behind for Peterborough shortly after this discovery and he made his debut in a 2-1 win at Brentford in May 1997, aged only 15 years and 262 days. This makes him one of the youngest-ever players to feature in a Football League match.
His breakthrough season as London Road came in 1998-1999 when he scored three goals in 33 appearances in all competitions. That alerted the attention of some big clubs and just before the end of the 20th century, he was snapped up by Tottenham Hotspur for £500,000. Simon Davies also joined as part of the deal and the pair were seen as part of Spurs’ bright future at the start of the 2000s.
It didn’t quite work out as well as hoped and in 2001, Etherington even spent two months on-loan to Bradford City in an effort to get more first-team football. In June 2002, he handed in a transfer request to Tottenham’s board which was reluctantly accepted by their hierarchy. However, no offers were forthcoming and he actually started the first match of the 2002-2003 campaign away to Everton where a certain Wayne Rooney was making his Premier League debut for the opposition. Etherington scored in the 2-2 draw in what was only his sixth Premier League start. It was his only goal in a Tottenham shirt on a league basis.
Despite a good 2002-2003 campaign with 25 appearances, Etherington was offloaded to West Ham United in August 2003 in a cash plus exchange deal which saw Freddie Kanoute go in the other direction to White Hart Lane.
West Ham remained in the Championship for two campaigns following their relegation but Etherington was an instant fan favourite and claimed the prestigious Hammer of the Year award at the end of his first campaign at the club. 2003-2004 saw him score his first career hat-trick too in a 5-0 drubbing of Wimbledon. It was second time lucky for West Ham in 2004-2005 who did achieve promotion via the play-offs and it was Etherington was produced the cross in the final against Preston North End for Bobby Zamora to convert and to take the east Londoners back into the top-flight.
He was a regular on their Premier League return, making 33 appearances in 2005-2006 as West Ham finished a fine ninth and reached the FA Cup final before losing on penalties to Liverpool FC. One of Etherington’s two goals in that season turned out to be the winning goal on the club’s last-ever trip to Highbury in February 2006.
Off-the-pitch and things weren’t going so well. Matthew had a gambling addiction and the club even issued a loan after he accumulated debts of over £800,000. In an attempt to help, he spent time at the Sporting Chance Clinic setup by former England and Arsenal captain Tony Adams. In total, he lost approximately £1.5 million in gambling and eventually, it affected his form on-the-pitch. At the end of 2008, Gianfranco Zola decided to sell Etherington as he was playing younger players anyway in his position. He would leave London behind for a new life in Staffordshire.
In January 2009, Etherington transferred to Stoke City for £2 million. He made his debut for the club in a goalless draw with league leaders Liverpool FC. Stoke were in the bottom three when they arrived and initially, it was about regaining his confidence which is what he did. That was despite a red card in just his fifth game for the Potters, when he kicked out at Sunderland defender Danny Collins during a 2-0 loss on Wearside.
His first Premier League goal for Stoke came in a 2-2 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers in October 2009 and his 2009-2010 campaign was very successful, rediscovering the form he’d demonstrated in his early years at West Ham. Etherington was crowned Player of the Year at the end of season awards and signed a new four-year contract that summer.
That improvement in form continued in 2010-2011 with Matthew creating a number of goals for his teammates in the early weeks of the season before managing to score himself in three successive games against West Bromwich Albion, Manchester City and Wigan Athletic. Stoke finished comfortably in mid-table and reached the FA Cup final. He starred in the semi-final demolition of Bolton Wanderers, scoring the first goal in their 5-0 win over the Trotters that secured Stoke’s place in the final – their first-ever FA Cup final appearance. A torn hamstring at the end of April put his participation in the final in doubt but he recovered to play. It ended in disappointment though as Stoke lost 1-0 to Manchester City thanks to Yaya Toure’s goal.
The highlight of his 2011-2012 season was scoring twice against his old club Tottenham as Stoke recorded a brilliant 2-1 victory over Spurs in December 2011. He made his 100th Premier League appearance for the club but even he admitted his form had dipped which led to Tony Pulis signing Michael Kightly from Wolves to provide competition for him in 2012-2013. Kightly was preferred in the early weeks of Pulis’ final season at The Britannia Stadium but he wasn’t a marked improvement and Etherington regained his regular place in the team three months into the season.
Mark Hughes replaced Pulis that summer and changed the style of play Stoke fans were accustomed to. Etherington lost his place to Liverpool loanee Oussama Assaidi and left the club in the summer of 2014 after his contract wasn’t renewed. He made 152 Premier League appearances for Stoke, scoring 13 goals.
He trained with Millwall after his release from Stoke and was offered a contract by the Lions. However, he turned it down due to a persistent back injury and in December 2014, announced his retirement from playing. His current coaching role with Peterborough began in May 2018.
Etherington has spoken publicly about his gambling problems over the years and in March 2018, he revealed some of those stories in his best-selling autobiography, Lucky Man which revealed addictions to betting on horse racing and greyhound racing.